In this Kulawong Talong – Eggplant in Burnt Coconut Cream, I savored the sweetness of the burnt coconut slivers, slightly salty bitter melon slices, crisp cucumber, citrusy nectarines, and fresh cherry tomatoes. All these blended well with the flavors of the garlicky-onion creaminess of the coconut milk browned to perfection on the soft, mushy broiled eggplant. Every bite was unbelievable. I felt like a goddess being lavished with a wonderful vegetable concoction.
When I first heard of the “burnt coconut” method of cooking that’s a very traditional way of preparing coconut in vegetables I was intimidated by it. Authors Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan tell the complete story in their updated, revised cookbook “Memories of Philippine Kitchens”. I was looking for original recipes to feature alongside the June article I had written for “Food” Magazine, Manila’s largest circulating culinary print publication, and Amy first sent me their recipe for “Kulawong Talong”.
Later on the “Food” editors chose another recipe to go with my magazine feature article, a Blueberry – Purple Yam tart, but I was smitten by the flavors this eggplant recipe promised. So when my younger son who loves vegetables came home to visit last week, I lost no time in making this.
First, I broiled the Chinese eggplants, a staple in my vegetable bin. A trip to the Asian market is not complete if I don’t grab a couple of these long, pretty purple eggplants. Once they were broiled and cooled, I peeled them and started “burning” the coconut cream. It was actually easier than it looked. Once I got going, pressing, kneading, sieving the coconut, everything just fell in place.
I quickly prepared the suggested Bitter Melon – Nectarine salad (also found in the cookbook “Memories…) and the colorful, flavorful mix of greens and reds offered the perfect contrast of tastes when I put them on top of the broiled eggplant with the sweet and savory “burnt” coconut milk and flakes.
Once you take your first bite you will wonder why on earth you never had this before. Only in the Philippines can you taste such bountiful flavors and food textures all in one bite . There is simply nothing like Filipino food as magnificent as this, nothing else in the world rivals it.
Kulawong Talong: Eggplant in Burnt Coconut Cream
- 2 packages (16 ounces each) frozen grated coconut available in Asian markets
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 2 cups canned coconut milk
- 5 cloves garlic peeled, minced
- 1 knob (1-inch piece) fresh ginger peeled; sliced in julienne strips
- 8 whole Asian eggplants or use 1-2 large Aubergines
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sliced ampalaya (bitter melon) thinly sliced, seeded (found in Asian markets); seeded, white membrane removed
- 1 whole small cucumber peeled, seeded, sliced
- 6 pieces cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in halves
- 2 whole nectarines cut into thick slices
- Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. To prepare the coconut: Mix the defrosted coconut with the rice vinegar. Knead by hand to extract as much cream from the coconut as possible. Wrap this coconut-vinegar mixture in cheesecloth and squeeze the coconut milk into a bowl, till all the milk has been extracted. You should have approximately 2 1/2 cups of liquid. Set the extracted coconut milk aside.
- Spread the squeezed, grated coconut on a large baking sheet and bake at 400 F for 12 to 15 minutes or till dark brown. *Note: I had to check on it and by the 10th minute it was very dark brown in my hot oven. Turn the tray around for even browning. Slightly char the coconut, but be careful not to burn. Keep turning the tray around.
- Separately, in a saucepan, combine the extracted coconut milk, half of the pan of burnt coconut, the canned coconut milk, garlic, ginger, shallots. Bring to a quick boil, then lower the heat to a slow simmer for 10 minutes. Stir well so the bottom does not burn.
- To prepare the eggplants: Place the eggplants under a broiler. Broil until the skin is charred and the interior is soft, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. When done, remove from broiler and cool on the counter for 10 minutes till they are easy to handle.. When cool enough, peel the eggplants using a fork or serrated knife. When peeled, spread the eggplant and flatten the flesh. Season with salt.
- Arrange the eggplants on a dish and pour the warm burnt coconut cream over them.
- Top with Chef Romy Dorotan's Bitter Melon and Nectarine Salad : Spread the sliced bitter melon or "ampalaya" over the cheesecloth or heavy paper towels. Rub with sea salt and squeeze the juices out. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the cucumber, tomatoes, nectarines. Stir in the bitter melon or "ampalaya". Sprinkle with more lemon juice and sea salt to taste before serving on top of the eggplant with burnt coconut cream.
- Serve hot or cold, both ways is a terrific side to any grilled dish or is good as a meal in itself.
- Cook's comments: Leftover burnt coconut cream can be used for a future Adobo recipe, as the cookbook authors suggested. Also any leftover bitter melon can be stir fried with garlic, onions, and vegetables like green beans and squash, suggests Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan in the cookbook "Memories of Philippine Kitchens" (updated/revised version 2012).
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
Did you like this recipe? I have more classic recipes inspired by my late mother’s cooking in my popular cookbook: My Mother’s Philippine Recipes. If you’re learning how to cook Filipino food or a fan of Philippine cuisine, buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.
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