Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often tastes horrible, especially when a prescription is simply a number of ground ingredients boiled in water. The good people at website Soundinner have embarked on a culinary experiment to change that. Their project, dubbed food3.5, incorporates local Yunnanese ingredients with the use of TCM. The properties of these ingredients are valued following ancient Taoist and Indian Ayurveda traditions.
This is a dish we've been thinking about for quite a long time. It is inspired by typical Filipino street fare which consists of a deep fried eggplant that has been previously boiled. We gave it an Italian touch by breading the eggplant like a Milanese cutlet.
We played with Yunnanese flowers and added a potato rostie, which has become a staple in both Dali and Lijiang. The fermented tofu paste — a spicy Yunnan specialty referred to as lufu (卤腐) — lends the perfect local umami flavor to balance the dish.
The recipe also makes use of three ingredients commonly used in TCM. Mustard powder detoxifies the body and encourages blood circulation, while curry powder is an aid to digestion and has anti-cancer qualities. Sea lavender — in Chinese often called wuwangcao (勿忘草) — alleviates stress and is a palliative for headaches and common colds.
For eggplant cutlets
20 grams dried sea lavender
3 medium-sized eggplants
Flour for breading
Bread crumbs for breading
Equal parts oil and butter for frying
For potato rosties
3-4 medium-sized potatoes
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 pinch black pepper
Oil for frying
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fermented tofu paste
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon hot water
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
Boil three liters of water with the lavender flowers. When the water begins to bubble, add two teaspoons of salt and the whole eggplants. Cook the eggplants for about 20 minutes or until soft. Remove from water, peel and mash flat into a 'cutlet' shape. Roll the mashed eggplant in a light dusting of flour, then in the whisked eggs and finally into the bread crumbs. Finish by frying the cutlets on both sides in a large pan in both oil and butter.
Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into thin slices with a mandoline or grater, then put them onto a baking sheet and cover with a mix of curry powder, salt, mustard powder and ground black pepper. Incline the tray and let the liquid drain from the potatoes for about 20 minutes. Remove the liquid and add some olive oil to the potatoes.
Take a handful of potatoes, make a patty and put it to fry in a very hot pan with roughly 1.5 centimeters of oil. Cook until golden brown and crispy. Patties that are very thick may not cook through to the center in the frying pan. If you prefer thick patties, you can brown them first in the pan and then finish them in a 175-degree (Celsius) oven.
For the sauce, mix the honey, lemon juice, and fermented tofu paste with a teaspoon of hot water. Stir in room-temperature tomato sauce. Place the warm potato rostie on the plate and stack the eggplant cutlet on top. Finish by drizzling sauce over the dish. Enjoy!