No one does Rellenong Talong quite like my mom, who is an excellent cook and never once glances at recipes. My mom cooks from experience, memory, and taste. Everything always starts with an estimate and she tastes as she goes. But always, to be on the safe side, she recommends not overdoing on salt or other seasonings. When a dish is lacking in seasoning, you can always add more, but if it has too much, it’s pretty much ruined.
Everyone who leaves home for college and then comes home for long weekends or holidays always request their moms to cook their favorite dishes. This Rellenong Talong, which is somewhat like a vegetable filled eggplant omelette, was one of my frequent requests. Hmmm… this just now struck me as odd, considering that I didn’t particularly like eggplant as a kid. However, when eggplants are fried and transformed into this dish, I could devour it in an instant.
Rellenong Talong recipes include different vegetables and some ground meat. My mom’s, as far as I can remember, has always been a vegetarian version. I like it like that. The ingredients that she adds always change depending on what we had at home. It can be one or a combination of the following: onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, green onions.
I tried my best to conjure my mom’s recipe from memory instead of just calling to ask her how she made it. Knowing her too well, she would not be able to give me a straight answer because she is not a believer of recipes. So, I made this from instinct and sweet memories of home.
First, you start with steaming the eggplants to get them soft. The eggplants are then mashed with a fork and sprinkled liberally with salt to prepare them for being turned into an omelette, ideally. I say ideally because mine did not quite turn into an omelette. Never mind that though… I would not do it any other way because the flavor and all the other ingredients that went in made it taste so darn good!
Now the fixings, I added tomatoes, bell peppers, and chives into the beaten egg seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce, and fish sauce. The sweet, crunchy, and juicy vegetables were the perfect complement to the salty eggplant.
The trick here is to cook the eggplant and veggies in super-hot oil. The egg is supposed to act as a binder, but I think of it as an ingredient to add to help the mashed eggplants turn brown faster. Like I mentioned above, this dish did not turn out into an omelette and part of the reason may be because I only used one egg. I wanted to showcase the eggplant because it is the main ingredient here, but feel free to use two or more eggs. One is just perfect though, I promise. It’s really no biggie if it falls apart, there’s no need to fret about looks here because you would not want to sacrifice the deliciousness of the tomato and bell pepper add-ins for beauty.
I am not quite sure how to describe this dish except to tell you to trust me when I say it is very good. DFJ, my super American boyfriend, raved about it and I hope you will like it too. This is the kind of dish that reminds me of home… the smell of eggplant frying in hot, hot oil wafting from the kitchen makes my heart swell with love and brings back memories of my family gathered at our dining table for meals.
This is what Rellenong Talong is: homey, delicious, and satisfying… a Filipino classic.
Just so you know, rice is a must. It would not be a Filipino dish without rice to go along with it, so go ahead and cook some, ok? Also, make sure you have some soy sauce with a small splash of fresh lime juice on the side, it makes the dish even better!
Veggified Fried Eggplant aka Rellenong Talong (Makes 2-3 servings)
2 long eggplants
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp fish sauce
¼ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 heaping tbsp fresh chives, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
a small squeeze of fresh lime juice
Place whole eggplants in a steamer. If the eggplants are too long, cut them in half. Steam the eggplants in a large steamer over medium heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to medium low. The eggplant is ready when it turns wrinkly and easily yields when poked with a fork. The whole steaming process takes 30-35 minutes.
Prepare the rest of the ingredients while waiting for the eggplant to be ready. Place egg, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, and pepper in a medium sized mixing bowl and beat well. Add the diced tomato, bell pepper, and minced chives. Mix everything well together.
When the eggplants have softened enough, turn the stove off and carefully move them onto a cutting board. Mash and flatten the eggplants with a fork. If the skin is hard, it will naturally slide off. However, if it is soft it will not easily slide off and does not have to be removed. Sprinkle the mashed eggplants all over with ¼ teaspoon of salt.
Coat the bottom of a large, nonstick pan with olive oil. Heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place the mashed eggplants in the pan and immediately pour the egg-vegetable mixture over them. Cook one side for about 15 minutes. Carefully flip the eggplants and chopped vegetables on the other side and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Make sure that both sides are ever so slightly burned, with just hints of dark brown. The slight charring makes it taste really good.
For the dip, pour a tablespoon of soy sauce in a small, dipping bowl and add a squeeze or two of fresh lime juice.