Eggplant Betel Leaves with Ginger Nam Jim Sauce (Vegan MasterChef Series)
This week’s veganised MasterChef recipe is the Kingfish Betel Leaves with Ginger Nam Jim Sauce, produced by one of the MasterChef teams during this week’s Thai restaurant challenge. I’ve replaced the Kingfish with eggplant that has been roasted and given a delicate fish flavour. Vegan Eggplant Betel Leaves with Ginger Nam Jim Sauce… A MasterChef creation given The Ravenous Vegan twist! And right before Twists Week, how fitting. A vegan MasterChef recreation perfect for your next asian inspired dinner party.
If you didn’t see last week’s vegan MasterChef recreation, I put together Callum’s Carrot and Ginger Okonomiyaki, with a Ravenous Vegan twist. I’ve since been thinking about other ways to vary that recipe, but that’s for another day.
When I was thinking about what I could replace the Kingfish with in this MasterChef Betel Leaf recipe, I came up with a few options. Silken Tofu crossed my mind, but I wanted to challenge myself and go a bit further than that. I had the idea of eggplant and somehow infusing it with some Nori flavour, but wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. Then I came across this great recipe from Man.Eat.Plant and thought I could definitely borrow some ideas to create a fleshy fishy substitute for my vegan Eggplant Betel Leaf recipe.
I remember sashimi being fairly mild in flavour but the texture being quite delicate in my mouth, so I’ve tried to recreate that with this eggplant variation. The roasting of the eggplant with the skin on allows the flesh to steam inside the skin, and the result is a deliciously fleshy texture. I flavoured it and then put it in the fridge for a few hours to properly chill. Sashimi is served chilled, so the eggplant substitute for this vegan Masterchef recipe should be too.
Big Bold Flavours
The flavours that the MasterChef team got into this small morsel of food are intense and incredibly moreish. I found myself going back so many times that I gave myself a chilli headache! The heat is strong but in the best possible way. This is one of the things I love about Thai food, and this vegan MasterChef recipe conversion doesn’t skimp on the flavours that the team originally packed.
Time to get messy
The salad in this recipe is covered in a sweet, salty, spicy dressing that gets absolutely everywhere. Don’t be afraid of some sticky fingers and really getting in and enjoying this starter by eating it with your hands. I love betel leaves and the way they carry the food and the flavour straight into my mouth. They add a fresh, textural element which makes this vegan MasterChef recipe really fun to eat.
Chopsticks or a fork absolutely won’t work when eating this dish. If you’re careful you might avoid the dressing running down your hand. But don’t get your hopes up.
Quick Easy Recipe
The hardest thing about this recipe is finding some of the ingredients. I live in South Yarra, so I ventured to Victoria Street to see if I could find some Betel Leaves and thai basil. I was successful, but had to search a few different shops. Green papaya on the other hand was a lot harder to find, and even when I did find some papaya, it wasn’t green.
I don’t mind the rip papaya in my version of the recipe. There’s still enough tartness from the grapefruit and the pickling of the papaya has really rounded out the sweet flavours of the orange flesh. If you can’t find papaya at all, google some alternatives and see what you can come up with. Get creative and make sure you swap with something that’s going to take on those beautiful spices in the pickle.
The cooking and the chilling of the eggplant took some time, but was very simple. So why not get this recipe started on a Saturday morning so that it’s ready for a late lunch or summer dinner. Or if you want it chilled quicker, why not throw it in the freezer for a short period, I’m sure that would work.
Eat the Rainbow
I just love how colourful this vegan MasterChef conversion has turned out on my plate. They say that we should eat the colours of the rainbow for maximum nutrition, and if we ignore the sugar content in the dressing, this is a really nutritious dish. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did.
Eggplant Betel Leaves with Ginger Nam Jim Sauce (vegan MasterChef series)
- 2 medium Eggplants
- 2 Nori Sheets
- 3 tbsp Vegan Mayonaise
- 1 tsp Vegan Fish Sauce I get this from The Cruelty Free Shop, so depending where you are you may have to hunt around.
Pickled Papaya Salad
- 1 cup White Vinegar
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1/2 cup Water
- 3 Star Anise
- 1/2 tbsp Ground Coriander Seeds
- 1 Cinnamon Quill
- 1 tsp Ground Turmeric
- 1/2 Green Papaya Shredded. If it's smaller, you may want to use the whole thing. And if it's not green, don't worry too much, I used a ripe one.
- 1 cup Thai Basil Leaves
- 1 cup Mint Leaves
- 1 Red Chilli Seeds removed, sliced finely.
- 1 Ruby Grapefruit Segmented, pith removed, diced. This is a tedious process, but worth it.
Nam Jim Dressing
- 8 cloves Garlic
- 3 small Birdseye Chillies If you like it really hot, add a couple more
- 2 Green Chillies The long ones.
- 20 g Ginger Peeled and diced roughly
- 3 Limes Juiced
- 3 tbsp Caster Sugar
- 3 tbsp Vegan Fish Sauce
- 2 tsp Rose Water
- 1 tsbp Hot Water
- 12 Betel Leaves Found at asian and indian groceries or fruit and veg stores.
- 2 Kaffir Lime leaves Sliced very finely.
- 1/3 cup Chopped Peanuts Toasted lightly in a non stick frying pan.
- Preheat your oven as high as it will go, around 250 degrees Celcius.
- Create around 8 slits in each eggplant with a knife, evenly around the fruit, then place on a baking tray and into the oven. Rost for half an hour, or until they are quite soft to the touch. They might go black, that's totally fine, the flesh inside is protected by the skin.
- On another tray, lay your Nori sheets and place them in the same oven for around 3 or 4 mintues. Keep ane eye on them as you don't want them to burn. You just want them to toast.
- Once the Nori sheets are toasted, remove them from the oven, break them up into smaller pieces and then use the food processor attachment for a stick blender (or a food processor) to blitz them into a fairly fine powder.
- In a small bowl, mix the vegan mayonaise, the vegan fish sauce and the nori powder together to create a flavourful dressing.
- Once the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven, allow to cool for a minute or two then slice the eggplants in half.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so and then, using a spoon, spoon 1/4 of the dressing mixture onto each eggplant half. Use a fork to gently mix the dressing into the eggplant, almost like you're combining the two without breaking up all of the eggplant.
- Cover in cling wrap and place in the fridge (or freezer) to cool.
Pickled Papaya Salad
- In a small saucepan bring the vinegar, sugar, water, star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon and turmeric to the boil over medium heat, stirring to disolve the sugar.
- Once boiling, remove from the heat.
- Place the shredded papaya (skin and seeds discarded) into a heat proof bowl and pour over the pickling liquid. Set aside until cool.
- Once the pickle is cool, remove the star anise and the cinnamon and drain the papaya in a colander. Set the fruit aside.
Nam Jim Dressing
- Place the garlic, chillies and ginger into a small food processor and pulse so that the ingredients end up finely chopped but aren't turned into a paste.
- In a bowl, combine the remaining Nam Jim dressing ingredients and the chopped garlic and ginger mixture, and sitr well until sugar disolves. Taste for heat and adjust by adding more chopped chilli if you like it spicy. Set aside.
Bringing It Together
- Once the eggplant is cooled through and chilled, you can finish the salad and assemble the dish.
- In a bowl, combine the pickled papaya, Thai basil, mint, grapefruit and dressing, and toss to combine.
- Arrange your washed and dried Betel leaves on a plate. Top with a portion of the eggplant mixture, probably just under a tablespoon dependning on the size of your leaves. Remember the leaves have to carry everything to your or your guests mouth so don't overload them.
- Top with a little of the salad and a drizzle of salad dressing.
- Finish with the kaffir lime leaf and some toasted peanuts.