Two serendipitous encounters came together to make this dish – one from months ago, one from this morning. The first was Taiwanese XO sauce, a mash-up of chili with several sorts of dried seafood, a specialty of the seafood-rich Penghu Islands. Last year a friend gave us two jars of the stuff; there’s still half a jar in the fridge.
Then, while out buying shallots and lemongrass at the wet market, I came across bags of beautifully mottled baby brinjals. (They’re called graffiti eggplants, it turns out. The more you know.) We don’t even eat brinjals usually, but I just couldn’t resist.
Their partnership was inevitable. One is a soft, Ditto-esque flavour mimic, taking after whatever accompanies it. The other is light spice and sweetness surfing on a vast, surging wave of seafood umami. They fight hunger.
Serves 2 – 4
1 chicken breast, sliced
6 graffiti brinjals, quartered
2 tablespoons Taiwanese XO sauce
3 dried chilies (optional)
Bunch of scallions, cut in long sections
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tomatoes, quartered
1.5 tsp cornflour
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
Marinate the chicken first. Add cornflour, sugar, rice wine, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce, massage it to mix everything, then let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add 1 tsp oil and panfry the brinjals. Make sure they’re a little browned on the flesh side. Take out and put aside.
Add 1 tbsp oil and brown the chicken with garlic and dried chilies. Don’t pour the remaining marinade in right now.
Once the chicken is browned, add the brinjals and tomato, then the XO sauce. Let the XO sauce fry for a bit to release its oils. Now add in the chicken marinade, then add just enough water to cover everything.
Bring to a boil, add oyster sauce, then simmer over medium heat to reduce the sauce. Finally add scallions, turn off the heat and cover to let it finish cooking.
Drizzle with a little sesame oil to finish, and serve hot with rice. Make sure you have more rice at the ready to soak up that sauce.
Babette is always on the lookout for good recipes. If you have any you want to share or highlight, link in the comments below, or talk to me on Facebook or by email. Thanks!