Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant

Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant
Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant

The month of October is always such a weird time. While the rest of the country is cozying up in their chunky sweaters with a big warm pot of stew on the stove, it's hot as heck in San Francisco. Is it raining and dreary where you are? I want a chilly rainy afternoon so bad! October is our one month of summer, what people call an Indian Summer. You can go out all day without a jacket! GASP. During the months of July through September it's actually really chilly and foggy. Those are the months where my pho intake spikes. I so desperately want to get into the Autumn spirit, but the fact that it's 80 degrees and incredibly sunny doesn't really make me want to turn on the oven or sweat my face off stirring a chickpea stew for hours (ooooo, that does sound good to me though). The only way I even know it's Fall is either through Instagram, PSL ads at Starbucks, and by visiting Trader Joe's. The air is heavy with the scent of cinnamon broom sticks, the squash display is literally overflowing, and every single snack item is pumpkin spice flavored. I'll try to push through the heat of the oven and repress my desires to make popsicles every day... unless you really want some popsicle recipes. You tell me!

This sticky rice stuffed eggplant situation is definitely worth turning on the oven though! One of my favorite dishes to get at dim sum (I have a lot) is sticky rice! There are typically two versions. One version is wrapped in a lotus leaf (Lo Mai Gai) and steamed as a packet, the lotus leaf imparts a really lovely herbal flavor to the rice. I want to try making that one day! The other version is sticky rice stuffed into a glass bowl (Lo Mai Fon) and inverted to make a perfect dome of rice. That one is a favorite among the cousins at the table. Both are similar, but also very different in flavor and texture.

I took inspiration from the latter version and paired it with one of my favorite autumn produce staples. The mighty eggplant! You can get regular eggplants pretty much all year round, but this season is when they really start to sing and you find the most beautiful varieties at the farmer's markets. I picked up some magical fairytale eggplants at the market this weekend to stuff with sticky rice. The eggplants are hollowed out and roasted in the oven until they get nice and tender. The eggplant innards are chopped up and cooked up with shiitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage before getting mixed in with the cooked sticky rice. Chinese sausage is a pretty key ingredient in this recipe. If you haven't had Chinese sausage or lap ceung before, it is cured pork sausage that's both salty and sweet. I grew up not really liking it because I was a somewhat picky eater, but I've since grown to love it! 

Once you've mixed together the sticky rice, you can technically stop and eat it now. BUT the magic is when you stuff the eggplant and put it back into the oven to crisp up. I highly recommend allowing some of the extra rice to fall off the eggplant and land on the baking tray because those bits are going to be the best part. Imagine insanely crispy and crunchy rice and pork bits that are reminiscence of those coveted crispy corner pieces of lasagna or baked pasta. Aaaaahhh drooling just thinking about it.


Sticky Rice Stuffed Eggplant

serves 2 - 4

Materials:

2 medium sized eggplants
1 cup glutinous sticky rice
1.5 cups water
8 shiitake mushrooms
2 Chinese sausages
1/3 cup chopped green onions (whites and greens) + more for garnish
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp + 2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
olive oil

Steps:

  1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Trim the stem off your eggplants. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. With a sharp paring knife, cut on the cut face an outline about 1/2” from the edge of eggplant, be careful not to cut all the way through. Cut and score the flesh of the eggplant. Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and set aside. This part is always a little tough, but you’ll get through it! Once the eggplants have been hollowed out, Place on a baking tray, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes until tender.

  2. While the eggplants are roasting, prepare your sticky rice filling. Wash rice 2-3 times until the water runs somewhat clear. Drain rinsing water. Cook rice in a rice cooker with 1 1/2 cups of water until done.

  3. Dice up remaining eggplant into bite sized pieces, set aside. Dice up shiitake mushrooms into 1/2” cubes, included stems, and set aside. Slice the Chinese sausage at an angle into 1/4” slices and set aside.

  4. Heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once hot add in mushrooms and eggplant. Season with a bit of salt and a light dash of white pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add in 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid. Allow vegetables to steam for 4 minutes covered. Remove lid and let the water evaporate. Add in a little bit more oil and add in Chinese sausage and green onions. Sauté for another 5 minutes. Add in cooked sticky rice. Season with 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper, and 2 tbsp oyster sauce. Give it a good mix until everything is evenly incorporated. Take the sticky rice filling off the heat.

  5. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Crank up the heat to 425 degrees. Carefully stuff the eggplants with sticky rice. If you have some extra sticky rice, you can either eat it straight or place the rice directly on the tray for some extra crispy bits! Place the stuffed eggplants back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until crisp.

  6. Allow the eggplants to cool and then serve!

Spiced Vegetable Pilaf with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

It is no secret that I LOVE my neighborhood. Inner Richmond is by far the best neighborhood in San Francisco. I'll debate you if you disagree. I've been planning a whole post, more like love letter, to Inner Richmond, which will come out eventually! However, I will admit that there could be some improvements. I wonder if there is a community board or council I could join.

Issue #1 is the poor access to cheese. This neighborhood is predominately Asian, and Asian people have a precedent of not liking cheese. That's fine. But would it be soooooo terrible for us to get one (just one!) cheese shop?! For the Asian girl that loves cheese?! I just need a place where I can pick up some fresh mozzarella, gouda, a nice parmesan, how about some shredded cheddar?! How is ChoCheeseBoards going to take off without proper access to cheese?!

Issue #2 is that the only Non-Asian grocery store in the Clement St. corridor is Smart and Final, which has a weird assortment of goods and items typically come in bulk. No, I don't need a 5 pound package of ground beef or a gallon tub of cream cheese (debatable). I'm also ignoring that there is a Safeway about a 20 minute walk away... too far. Can we get a Trader Joe's at 9th and Clement, please????!

So, when I decided that I was going to make this pilaf dish for a dinner party on Sunday, I found myself in a pickle. Where is the basmati rice?! I was sure that they would sell it at our go-to Asian store. Nope. I almost bought this bag described as "extra fancy white long grain rice". What does that even mean??? Extra Fancy? What is just plain fancy rice? I recruited Reuben to help me on Mission Basmati. We needed to be in Oakland in 3 hours. We went back to Smart and Final to take another look at their very limited grain aisle. There was a 20lb bag of basmati rice and we decided to just buy it. It's a big bag. I currently don't have a clever storage solution for it so it's just sitting on the floor of our kitchen, saying "I'm going to be here for a while".

We are going to be eating basmati rice for a very long time... eh, it's not the worst thing. It's delicious and technically a lot healthier for you than the jasmine rice that I typically make. I ended up doubling this recipe for the dinner party. 2 cups of rice turns into A LOT of rice here. We were able to make a giant platter of pilaf to safely transport to Oakland and still save some leftovers to have for work lunches. I recently was asked by a friend if I could make more recipes that one could easily make for work lunches. You ask and I will deliver! This pilaf works as a beautiful offering for a potluck or a yummy dish to meal prep on Sunday and enjoy all week. It's easy to throw together, filling, satisfying, and won't leave you battling a serious food coma at your desk.

The colors of the rice, carrots, and cauliflower are just so gorgeous together. If you see some rainbow carrots at your farmer's market, BUY 'EM. The carrots are sweet like candy, tossed with honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little sumac. It acts as a sweet balance to the spicy earthy flavors of the cauliflower, seasoned with turmeric, garam masala, and cumin. I make this yogurt sauce about once a week, it's so good and works as a creamy refreshing binder to hold the whole dish together. Cooking is about balance. Once you hit salty, sweet, spicy, sour, you got yourself a great plate of food!

If you guys have any requests for what you'd like to see more of on EatChoFood, please let me know in the comments!

Happy almost weekend!


Spiced Vegetable Pilaf with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

serves 4-6

Pilaf:

1 C basmati rice

1/3 C orzo

3 C chicken stock

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/4 C chopped parsley + more for garnish

 

Vegetables:

1 bunch of carrots (6-9 medium carrots)

1/4 C honey

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sumac

1/2 head of cauliflower

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin

oilive oil

salt and pepper 

 

Lemon Yogurt Sauce:

1/2 C plain greek yogurt

1 tbsp water

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp sumac

Steps:

1. Start by making your rice pilaf. Add chicken stock, turmeric powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to a pot. Mix to combine and bring to a boil. Add rice and orzo to the stock and lower heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 20 mins. Remove pot from heat and allow to sit covered for another 10 mins. Fluff with a fork, mix in parsley, and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Peel the carrots and cut into 1/2" thick slices at an angle. Toss carrot slices in a medium bowl with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, sumac, and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Arrange carrot slices on half of a foil lined baking sheet.

4. Cut the cauliflower into medium sized pieces, about 1/2" thick floret slices. Toss cauliflower in a medium bowl with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Arrange cauliflower on the other half of the baking tray.

5. Make sure the vegetables are in a single layer for optimal roasting! Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until tender and getting slightly crispy on the edges.

6. Make the lemon yogurt sauce by mixing greek yogurt, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sumac. Adjust thickness by adding more or less water or yogurt.

7. Assembly the pilaf by adding a big scoop of rice to a plate or bowl, top with spiced vegetables, and then drizzle the lemon yogurt sauce over it. You could also make one big platter of this to share!