Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sarawak Black Pepper Sauce & Caramelized Eggplant

This recipe post is a "follow-up" to my blog post Sarawak's Indigenous Food Treasures (here). Black Pepper Sauce is popular throughout Malaysia and Singapore. It is a dark and syrupy (Chinese) sauce with many layers of salty and sweet, acidity and spice. Oh so good with beef, this sauce loves to stick to stir-fried prawns, crabs, tofu, and even vegetables just as well. You can use any black pepper, but Sarawak Black Pepper gives it an extra aromatic dimension.

This recipe is my version of Black Pepper Sauce. It is loosely based on how I've seen it prepared in Miri (Miri has a large Chinese population). Or rather, what I saw going into the wok: never did I see any of them use exact measurements. I use a good measure of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), because I like the sweetness set off against the spiciness of the black pepper. Feel free to adjust ingredients to your personal taste.

what can I say, I felt creative 

Sarawak Black Pepper Sauce
(makes about 1 cup)

1 full tbsp coarsely pounded Sarawak Black Peppercorns
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (roughly 1 tbsp)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1-2 red chilies (heat to taste)
1 tbsp Belacan* (shrimp paste, if you don't have belacan use any other)
1/3 cup kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1/3 cup (salty) soy sauce
1/3 cup tbsp oyster sauce
oil for stir-frying

Pound onion, ginger, garlic, and chillies into a paste using mortar and pestle. Add the belacan paste and pound some more. By all means, use a blender if you prefer. Heat the oil in a wok or shallow pan. Add the pounded paste and stir-fry until soft and fragrant. Add both sweet and salty soy sauce, as well as the oyster sauce. Reduce over low heat until thick and syrupy. Add a few drops of water if the sauce gets too thick. Add the coarsely pounded black pepper, stir in well and simmer for another 2-3 minutes, until all the aromas and flavors have blended.

Ideally, the sauce gets time off-heat to infuse all its flavors of sweet, salty, acidity, and heat. You can use it immediately, but it is even better if you leave it be overnight.

Caramelized Eggplant with (Sarawak) Black Pepper Sauce

Slice eggplant in 1cm thick slices, and sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet and pan-fry the eggplant until it is soft and caramelized. Stack the slices, spooning a lick of black pepper sauce in between the slices. Drizzle some more black pepper sauce on top and serve.

Beef Tenderloin with (Sarawak) Black Pepper Sauce & Grilled Fennel
Another favorite: tender beef fillet, cubed and stir-fried quickly with this sweet spicy black pepper sauce. Serve with grilled fennel: the hint of licorice in the fennel pairs very well with the sweet-savory spiciness of the sauce.

Beef Tenderloin stir-fried with Sarawak Black Pepper Sauce and Grilled Fennel
ready to pound the Sarawak black peppercorns

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  1. It looked lovely, but seriously read it now as the entire family just can't seem to have enough of Eggplant. But don't we have to put anything else to caramelise the eggplant - just put it to hot oil? No sugar?

    Black Pepper Sauce - will let you know once I try!

  2. The caramelising here is the natural sugars that come out if you take the time slowly browning it. Afterwards, when you stack, you spoon the (sweet-savory) sauce on the slices. If you want to increase the intensity of the caramelization, you can brush some of the sauce on the slices towards the end of pan-grilling!

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