This Cambodian grilled eggplant with minced pork recipe makes a delicious Cambodian dish that’s called chha trob for short in Khmer. The eggplant is char-grilled so it has a wonderful smoky flavour, while the minced pork, stir-fried with fermented soybeans, is a little funky, a little salty, and a little sweet.
This Cambodian grilled eggplant with minced pork recipe is next in my series on the best Cambodian barbecue recipes and follows my previous recipes for smoky grilled pork ribs and beef skewers, two of our favourite Cambodian street food dishes.
While the ribs and skewers are eaten on the streets, at local neighbourhood eateries and at rowdy barbecue joints, washed down with an abundance of Cambodia beer, this smoky grilled eggplant with ground pork dish is more typically found on the menu of a Cambodian restaurant serving traditional food or is eaten as one of an array of dishes as part of a meal at home.
A rendition of this smoky grilled eggplant with pork mince recipe will be in the Cambodian cookbook we’re working on, a comprehensive first-of-its-kind Cambodian culinary history and Cambodian cookbook which we’ve been researching, writing and photographing for the last six years, which we’re seeking patrons for on Patreon.
Cambodian Grilled Eggplant with Minced Pork Recipe – How to Make Chha Trob
I have a special affection for this smoky eggplant with pork mince recipe as it was one of the first Cambodian dishes that we learnt to make soon after moving to Cambodia’s riverside city Siem Reap six and a half years ago.
The grilled eggplant with minced pork recipe was one of a handful of Cambodian specialties – along with a green mango salad, pomelo and prawn salad, and fish amok – that we were taught during a private cooking class by chef Kethana Dunnet.
Kethana is the owner of Sugar Palm, one of Siem Reap’s best restaurants for authentic traditional Cambodian food, and is regarded by the younger generation of Cambodian chefs as the ‘godmother of Cambodia cuisine’. The dish would go on to be one of the dishes that we’d order nearly every time we ate at Sugar Palm, along with Kethana’s prahok k’tis, Cambodian chicken curry, and of course, her fish amok.
You might be wondering which component of this grilled eggplant with minced pork recipe is barbecued. It’s the eggplant, of course, which needs to be barbecued or grilled until the skin is so charred that it is black to ensure it has both the smoky flavours and aromas you want, as well as the soft meat.
Ironically, Kethana and husband Bruce would tell us that the dish would occasionally get sent back to the kitchen because diners said it tasted burnt. That’s the whole idea!
Tips for Making this Smoky Grilled Eggplant with Ground Pork Recipe
That’s why this Cambodian grilled eggplant with minced pork recipe is best made on an outdoor barbecue or, say, a Korean grill, or a traditional clay brazier of the kind we use here in Cambodia, rather than just in a pan.
If you are using a brazier, we love these Coconut Charcoal BBQ Briquettes. They are fantastic long-burning briquettes made from coconut shells. Of course, if you don’t have access to any of those, by all means, make this Cambodian grilled eggplant with minced pork recipe on your stovetop.
I also need to mention that Cambodians call this dish ‘chha trob’, and this is one of the reasons we love Cambodians so much. They are so like Australians in so many ways, but especially when it comes to shortening names! Chha trob essentially means fried eggplant, although the eggplant is grilled or barbecued not fried. It’s the minced pork that is stir-fried.
The more correct name for grilled eggplant is ‘dot trob’ and a more accurate name for the entire dish is ‘trob dot chha sach chrouk chenh chram’, which is a mouthful and which is why Cambodians typically call the dish ‘chha trob’. Our Australian readers will get this.
Cambodian Grilled Eggplant with Minced Pork Recipe
- 2 eggplants large ones, often called graffiti or Sicilian
- 300 g pork mince
- 3 tbsp fermented soybeans
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 5 pieces spring onion sliced finely, for garnish
- 1 pinch salt to taste
- 1 pinch pepper to taste
- Prick the eggplants all over with a fork. Brush the eggplants with vegetable oil and place on a wire rack in the oven on 180˚C.
- Cook the eggplants and turn them every 10 minutes, until the skin has noticeably softened.
- Grill the eggplants still whole on a BBQ until the exterior of the eggplants are charred.
- Allow the eggplants to cool a little and while they’re cooling make the mince mixture.
- Add the oil to a wok over medium-high heat. Add the minced pork and when coloured add all the other ingredients and cook until fragrant. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Once the eggplants have cooled, peel the eggplants and slice through the middle. Splay the eggplants out and top with the mince.
- Garnish with spring onions.
Please do let us know if you make our Cambodian grilled eggplant with minced pork recipe. We’d love to know how it turns out for you.