Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eggplant Jeow

As I said, I've been hankering to make one of Laos' iconic jeows (dips) since we got back from Vientiane.
Jeow is served with basically every Lao meal... there are many different varieties and takes on jeow from around the country, but most recipes share the fact that the ingredients are grilled and imbued with a smoky flavor.  Typically, jeow is served with sticky rice, which is eaten by hand, picked out of the dish and rolled into little balls for dipping in the jeow (thusly).

Last night I finally had at it (i.e. remembered to soak the sticky rice 3 hours in advance) and made an eggplant jeow... kinda like a Lao baba ganoush, I'd say.  Smoky, salty, garlicky, a little spicy.  Good stuff.  Tim and I ate it with the traditional sticky rice accompaniment, but this stuff is multi-purpose; I could see it as an appetizer at a party, served with raw veggies, or better yet on toasted baguette slices rubbed with garlic. Next on my list: tomato jeow, which is like Lao salsa.

I used the recipe from the beautiful cookbook that I bought at the lovely Vientiane training restaurant, Makphet, called "From Honeybees to Pepperwood: Creative Lao Cooking with Friends."   I modified it somewhat as I went along, so below is the recipe with my changes noted in parentheses:

Grilled Eggplant Dip
Jeow Mak Kena

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

- 500 grams of Japanenese eggplant 
(I used 4 of the long skinny purple ones)

- 6 shallots 
(skin on... also, I used 6 of the tiny Asian shallots- if you're using the big French shallots, made only use 3)

- 10 garlic cloves (skin on)

- 10 chilies 
(I used 10 of the cabe merah besar, big, red, fairly mild chilies... maybe the U.S. equivalent is Serrano?)

- 4 tbsp fish sauce 
(this seemed like a lot of fish sauce to me- a little fish sauce goes a long way- so I added it to taste and ended up with more like 2 tbsp)

- 1 tsp lime juice

- handful of cilantro leaves, minced

- salt to taste

Preparation:

1. Grill the eggplants, chilies, shallots and garlic until the skins are charred.  Remove from the grill and cool.

2. Peel eggplants, shallots and garlic and roughly chop (I also peeled the chilies).  Do not use water for peeling, as it will bog down the jeow.

3. Using a mortar and pestle (you could probably lightly pulse in the food processor, too), pound the chilies and (a pinch of) salt.  Add the shallots and garlic and grind until ingredients are crushed.

4. Add eggplants, lime juice and fish sauce, pound until well combined.

5. Finish by mixing in the cilantro.

6. Serve with sticky rice!

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