Ketchup, that must have American condiment, has a history that pre-dates the tomato. Okay, I will confess I do not like ketchup and consider it the worst thing that ever happened to a summertime favorite. Tracking its heritage back and using its pre-cursor, kecap manis, rocks my world. Kecap manis is a sweetened soy sauce that comes from Indonesia with a satly, sweet, sulphury profile with still its own lineage – that of a Chinese origin were there was a fermented mushroom sauce used. On the Malay Peninsular the process was replaced with the soybean and sugar cane that the Chinese also brought with them. During the Dutch tenure on the Malay Peninsular this soy sauce was taken back to Europe, and somehow run into the tomato --
Kecap manis is a rich, dense, viscous sauce that if you have difficulty finding (and you probably will) substitute it with 1 part molasses and 2 parts soy sauce. Now, I will use this sauce in my peanut sauce for my satays but it also finds its way into bar-b-que sauce, thinned out with rice vinegar and drizzled over grilled meat or as a rub for roast chicken. I store it in the refrigerate for the sugar content will promote mold’s growth, and I always make sure the kecap manis I buy comes from Indonesia – the Dutch also produce a version that is available on the market, however, I find it inferior and three times as expensive.
Caramelized Eggplant - yields 4 to 6 servings
6 Japanese eggplants - cut into quarters lengthwise (or use globe eggplant)
1" piece ginger - peeled and sliced julienne
1/2 cup of ketcap manis
1/4-cup rice wine or white wine vinegar
2-tablespoons sesame seed oil
1-tablespoon sesame seeds
Toss all the ingredients together, save the sesame seeds, and let marinate for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator covered. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay the eggplant out on the baking tray in a single layer, and cook for approximately 15 minutes. After five minutes pour any remaining marinade over the roasting eggplant, and continue to cook about another 10 minutes. The eggplant should be soft and browned with a slightly sticky coating when done. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds prior to serving.