Have you ever wondered what those pea- like green balls in your green curry were? I know I did!
They taste quite bitter and are crunchy from the outside but have a soft interior made up of little seeds. Because of their bitterness they might not be for everybody, but I really like them. I do not only like them for their flavor, but also because they give the dish some extra texture.
So you can understand my excitement when I found a packet of green balls with a sticker that said baby eggplant on it, in my local Asian supermarket. Right then and there I decided that the green balls were coming home with me and that we were having green curry for dinner that night!
My usual strategy for cooking new things is to type the ingredient into Google or Pinterest and then read through a few attractive looking recipes for inspiration. Most of the time I decide to combine a few elements or ingredients of the recipes that I like and then come up with my own version.
This time my strategy did not quite work, because I could not find many recipes for baby eggplant. This made me conclude that baby eggplants are not as commonly used as I initially thought, which of course made me even more curious…
After a long and rather confusing Google-session I found out that the Thai baby eggplant is in fact a berry and grows in nearly all the tropical parts of the world ranging from Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands including Hawaii, Guam, and American Samoa. The Latin name for the baby eggplant is Solanum Torvum, but it is also known as: Devil’s Fig, Prickly Nightshade, Shoo-shoo Bush, Wild Eggplant, Pea Eggplant or Pea Aubergine. All very exotic and exciting names for such a little green ball, but I still did not know how to cook them…
Because my Google recipe-search did not leave me with much more than the fact that they are often used in Thai green curries, I decided that I just had to use my common sense.
As the balls are quite firm I figured that I had to cook them for at least 10 minutes in order to make them edible. Luckily it turned out that my cooking- time estimation was right and they tasted exactly like the baby eggplants I had before. Because I think my baby eggplant experiment worked out really well, I thought i would share my recipe. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did and would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
Thumb- size fresh ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 chilly (finely chopped)
4 whole kaffir lime leaves
1 big tin of coconut milk (450ml)
250 ml water
2/3 tablespoons of good quality green curry paste
A bunch of baby eggplants (when picked of their stems 2 hands full)
1 chicken breast (sliced into thin strips)
+/- 15 tiger prawns (depending on the size)
1/2 eggplant (cut into small cubes)
1/2 red pepper (cut into thin strips)
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tablespoon of Thai fish sauce
A big bunch of Thai basil coarsely chopped
Put a wok (or deep skillet) on a high heat with some oil and stir fry the finely chopped ginger, garlic, chilly and shallot for 1 or 2 minutes until they get soft (not brown) and then add the green curry paste, the coconut milk, the kaffir lime leaves and the water and stir well.
Bring this liquid just up to the boil and add the baby eggplant together with the slices of chicken breast and the shrimps. Cook this for five minutes while stirring every once in a while.
Then add the cubed eggplant and the red pepper that you have cut into thin strips and let it all cook for another 5 minutes or so.
The curry looks quite liquid at this point, and even though it will become a bit thicker when more water evaporates, I prefer my curries this way because there is simply more sauce. If you like your curry to be thicker then just add less water.
When the dish looks done (if you are not sure, just try a baby eggplant) add the juice of half a lime, the fish sauce and the roughly chopped Thai basil and turn the heat off. Give it another good stir so all the flavors are well mixed into the dish and serve with either white (jasmine) rice or any type of your favorite noodles and enjoy!