Terung: Indonesia

Let us turn our attention to eggplants. In the Indonesian language, the vegetable is referred to as terung. With eggplants one can cook various appetizing dishes, traditionally or creatively prepared as gastronome and epicurean el supremo Suryatini N.Ganie explains.

Terung originated in India but is now widely available in Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Central Africa, Latin America and Europe.

In Indonesia there are several varieties of the vegetable. The terong engkol resembles solid mini cabbages and is generally eaten raw when added to traditional dishes such as the Sundanese karedok.

Another variety of the sometimes purple and sometimes light-green colored eggplant is the tekokak, a tiny dark green variety often eaten raw. Other types of eggplant grow wild in Indonesia and are used in regional fare.

Over the last 10 years or so, other eggplant varieties have become available in markets across the archipelago. These include Australian and Japanese eggplants.

The eggplant is an ancient traveler. In India it has been used for four thousand years and has gradually spread from continent to continent.

In Spain, eggplants were first cultivated by the Moors in Andalusia. The Arabs first imported the vegetable from the far east.

Today in Europe, Italian and Portuguese recipes often use eggplants.

In countries such as Holland and Germany, the eggplant is not a popular vegetable. However, Dutch housewives who accompanied their husbands to the Dutch Each Indies often prepared the vegetable as asparagus.

In the past, Chinese and Middle Easterners often used eggplants in their cooking.

In Indonesia, the vegetable is sometimes braised with sweet soy sauce to make semur or put into the sour-tasting vegetable dish sayur asam or the coconut milk vegetable dish sayur lodeh for an interesting addition.

In Aceh and East Sumatra, the eggplant is often added to kari (curry dishes) to enhance the dish.

I think our terung dishes have Chinese and Middle Eastern culinary overtones.

When the Chinese arrived in the archipelago they were quick to cultivate eggplants as they were considered a multi-use vegetable.

They also used the eggplant as a medicinal agent to relieve pain, remove toxins from the body and overcome hypertension.

My friend stir fries unpeeled, sliced terung with chilies and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) to make the Chinese-inspired oseng-oseng terung when feeling tired.

On the Middle Eastern side, our pecak terung is nearly the same as the dukkous al-badinjan.

To make this dish, place two medium-sized, purple, oval-shaped eggplants (500g) on a baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes until soft. Crush four garlic cloves with one tsp salt in a mortar.

When the eggplants are cooked, peel off their skin while they are still hot and place the flesh in a bowl. Chop up the flesh and mash it with a fork. Stir in the crushed garlic, two tbs oil, chili pepper to taste, paprika and some more salt if needed. Serve hot with rice.

Suryatini N.Ganie