Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My tumultuous love affair with Bygan




Eggplant Pumpkin and Bodie in Black Bean Sauce

So on Saturday around lunchtime I was feeling really hungry which meant making something quick and easy. Its taken a lot of practice though to get this to come out quite right, Chinese food is a skill and I honestly cannot claim mastery as yet.
I usually make versions of this depending on the veggies on hand and this time, my usual veggies being carrots, green peppers, mushrooms and cabbage. However this time, I wanted to experiment with other veggies like bygan (eggplant) and pumpkin.
I had really wanted to try Tyler Szechuan Eggplant from the Food Network but I decided to stick to what I was comfortable with and that’s how the eggplant ended up in the black bean sauce.

Eggplant and I have a tumultuous history dating back to when I was a little kid. Being in a traditional Trinidadian Indian family, when I saw eggplant (hindi name is bygan) on the table it was either in bygan choka or curry bygan, neither of them I was particularly fond of then.
Bygan choka is where the bygan is roasted on an open flame until soft and then tempered with spices, or as we would say in trinidad “chunkayed”. Curry bygan is as the name suggests, bygan that has been curried with most likely a ready made spice mixture. Gone are the days in Trinidad where people made their own curry powder. Now is either “Chief” “Turban” or “chatak” who doing that for us. Its a pity since the mix of spices really gives the curry a different flavour. The ready made versions though convenient gives a generic taste and the flavor is not as robust as it would be if the spices were roasted whole and used immediately.
Well as I was saying, it was never love at first bite for me and the humble eggplant. You would never have caught me calling that purple vegetable a favorite and the only way I would eat bygan choka was when it was right off the stove steaming hot. Don't talk about curry bygan, yuck!
But things have changed, I see bygan in a new light these days, its actually become a vegetable that gets a lot more respect from me of late. I think a defining moment was me seeing Jamie Oliver a few years ago make what he called “Poor Man's caviar” on “The Naked Chef”. The caviar being eggplant! He roasted the eggplant on the stove, scooped out the cooked flesh, tempered the mixture with geera and added some green herb which was either parsley or cilantro. Well as far as I was concerned he made bygan choka. He placed a dollop on a small piece of thin bread that he toasted like little appetizers. He made bygan choka look sexy and he seemed to think it tasted fantastic!
Yes after that fateful day it would never be quite the same between me and the purple eggplant. More recently a colleague of mine told me he had eggplant for breakfast and it wasn’t in Bygan Choka, I was intrigued. He grilled his eggplant and topped them with cheese. All I could think of was yummy. I had to check myself, this was eggplant I was thinking about. And then my relationship just got better; I visited a restaurant in Trincity and had their Ratatouille. Until that point the only Ratatouille that I loved was the movie. It was moist, fragrant with a complexity and depth of flavor that I had previously not taught the eggplant was capable of.
Now I want to try bygan in everything, from italian to chinese. I fried eggplants coated in breadcrumbs one day and they were delicious in a sandwich. (I really had wanted to use them in Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti, but didn't get that far.)

This recipe I have is great and quick and it came out delicious. You can add fried tofu or cubed chicken if you like, just make more sauce to compensate. The black bean sauce is quite salty together with the soy sauce so be careful with adding any more salt.

Vegetarian
Servings 4
Skill Kinda Easy
Cuisine Trini Chinese
Time: 1hr
 


3/4 pack if spaghetti
1 tb salt for spaghetti water
 
1 c bodie chopped 1in pieces
1c pumpkin cubed
1c bygan (eggplant) cubed
1 green pepper cut in chunks
1 onion sliced

Sauce
1tb black bean sauce
1tb hoisin sauce
1tb sesame flavored oil (less if using pure sesame oil)
1tsp mushroom flavored dark soy sauce (more of using light to taste)

1 tb Worcestershire sauce
1tsp corn starch (optional)
Water about ½ or more cups (to thin sauce out)

pinch chilli powder
pinch black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tb chive chopped
1 leaves of one strand of thyme

Procedure
  • Cook spaghetti or any kind of noodles as indicated and drain and reserve.
  • Chop up all vegetables and herbs as indicated.

  • Sauce: Combine Black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame flavored oil, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Mix the corn starch in a little cold water first to dissolve and add to the previous mixture.
  • Heat a wok on high heat. Add the hard veggies first like carrots and sautee ,mixing very often. If the carrots are very hard you can add some water, lower the heat and cover the wok and let them steam a bit. Add a pinch of salt to every new vegetable you add to the pot. Add the pumpkin and saute, mixing regularly. The high heat will cause the bottom to burn if you dont mix often. Then add the bodie, green peppers, onions and the garlic. Adding the garlic before would have resulted in it burning in the high heat.
  • When all the veggies are tender but still crisp add the reserved sauce and heat through thoroughly for a few minutes adding more water if you want a more watery sauce.
  • Add chilli powder and black powder.
  • Add spaghetti and toss to coat in sauce. Take off heat and add herbs and toss.

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