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Meatless Monday: Indonesian spicy eggplant

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The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

(Read caption) Unusual flavors, like lime leaves and sambal oelek- an Indonesian chile-based sauce- give this eggplant dish a touch of tropical flavor.

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This year, Indonesia celebrates 67 years of independence from the Dutch who colonized them for 350 years.

So I decided to spotlight a simple Indonesian dish that slips into the fall lineup effortlessly, its main ingredients comprising eggplant, tomatoes, and red bell pepper. Terong belado, or spicy eggplant, is usually eaten hot with rice. In fact, the basic tomato-red pepper sauce is oh-so versatile. To make this dish with egg, called telor belado, fry whole hard-cooked eggs and toss them in the same sauce. Other ideas: drape the sauce over grilled meats, or stir it into potato salad.

Fortunately, a glossy purple eggplant and a rainbow pint of cherry tomatoes miraculously appeared in my vegetable box the week I decided to make this dish. My mum prefers the long, slender Chinese eggplants as she thinks the Western eggplant has skin that’s tough as leather. But I know better, she’s just used to them. We’re all creatures of habit.

If you’re still unsure about this beautiful dish redolent with the floral notes of kaffir lime leaves and the sassy sweetness of sun-ripened tomatoes, think of it as a ratatouille with a touch of the tropics.

Indonesian spicy eggplant (Terong Belado)

 Time: 30 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

1 large Western eggplant, or 3 Chinese eggplants

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

2 cloves garlic

2 Asian shallots, roughly chopped (1/3 cup)

1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, or 1 large tomato, chopped

1 teaspoon sambal oelek, or to taste [editor's note: sambal oelek is a chile-based sauce]

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