After a lovely few days in Koh Samui (which was only slightly marred by a major rupture of the island's only power source which left it without electricity for 3 days, a first in 15 years!) and two weeks of almost nonstop eating out, I was dying to get back into the kitchen and make some simple, wholesome and spicy dishes. Eating out in Bangkok - be it on the street or in proper restaurants - is wonderful, but for me nothing can really beat a home-cooked meal. And contrary to popular belief, cooking Thai food at home doesn't have to be difficult. While there are some dishes which are quite complex to prepare, requiring many steps and ingredients which may not be readily available in non-tropical climates, other Thai dishes are a flash to make! Stir-fried eggplant with basil (known in Thai as phat makeua yao) is the ultimate example. Ridiculously easy, quick and yet delicious and packed with flavor!
Phat makeua yao was always a favorite of mine in Thai restaurants in the U.S., but not surprisingly it's much better here! Funnily enough, my favorite version thus far is the one made at our cafeteria at work. The ingredients couldn't be simpler...just some eggplants (preferably the long green variety), Thai basil, garlic, chilies, stock, fish sauce (which I replace with mushroom sauce or light soy sauce) and sugar. The green eggplants and Thai basil are both readily available in Asian markets. If you can't find the green eggplants, the long purple ones will do. But please do try to get Thai basil...regular Italian-style basil isn't quite the same for Thai cooking!
Mushroom sauce by the way, made here in Thailand by Happy Boy brand, is my favorite fish sauce substitute. It's completely vegetarian but doesn't have the strong taste of soy sauce.
Enjoy this with some steamed rice. I also made some of my favorite Thai winged bean salad (yam tua plu) to complete our meal. Delicious!
THAI STIR-FRIED EGGPLANT WITH BASIL (PHAT MAKEUA YAO)
Serves 2-3 as a side dish
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Thai bird's eye chilies, chopped
2-3 long green eggplants or 4-5 purple Asian eggplants, chopped into large chunks
2/3 cup vegetable or mushroom stock
1 teaspoon mushroom sauce or light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) palm or brown sugar
Handful (about 1/2 cup) Thai basil leaves
Additional Thai basil leaves and chopped bird's eye chili, for garnish
1. In a wok or saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chilies and saute until the garlic just begins to turn golden.
2. Add the eggplants, stir well and saute for a couple of minutes more.
3. Add the stock, mushroom/soy sauce and sugar. Cover and simmer until the eggplant is cooked, bout 8-10 minutes.
4. Stir in the basil leaves and remove from heat. Serve garnished with additional basil and chili.