Roasted Aubergine with Spicy Pili Sauce (Terong Saos Kacang Kanari Pedas)

By / Food / July 17th, 2023 / 4

Adapted from THE INDONESIAN TABLE by Petty Pandean-Elliot (Phaidon, US $39.95, 2023)

Feature photo credit: Yuki Sugiura

Pili nuts are similar to almonds but with a richer, creamier taste. They are plentiful in Maluku, a province comprised of nearly a thousand islands. The province was once known as the Moluccas or The Spice Islands, a historic trading hub for the visiting merchants from China, India and, later, Medieval Europe.

One of the best places to find pili nuts is in the Banda Islands. Known locally as kacang kanari, pili nut trees have a vital function by offering shade for nutmeg, which could only be found in Banda in the sixteenth century. (Seedlings were eventually carried to other countries around the world).

Origin: Maluku

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30-35 minutes

Serves: 2-4


For the aubergines (eggplants):

  • 2 large aubergines (eggplants)
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Small bunch of basil, leaves only, to garnish
  • Steamed rice or Turmeric Coconut Rice (page 201), to serve

For the sauce:

  • 100 g / 3 1⁄2 oz (scant 1 cup) natural pili nuts or almonds with skin
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 2–3 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
  • 1–2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper


To make the aubergines (eggplants), 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Using a sharp knife, cut the aubergine into 5-cm/2-inch pieces. Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30–35 minutes until soft.

To make the sauce, place the pili nuts on a baking sheet and roast on the lowest rack of the oven for 10–12 minutes.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté for 2–3 minutes until fragrant. Add the chillies and sauté for another 2–3 minutes. Set aside.

In a blender, combine the pili nuts, garlic mixture and 200 ml/7 fl oz (generous 3⁄4 cup) of water and blend until thick and smooth. If necessary, add a little water. Transfer to a bowl, then add the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the aubergines to a large serving plate and drizzle with the sauce. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with rice.

Excerpted from The Indonesian Table © 2023 by Petty Pandean-Elliot. Photography © 2023 by Yuki Sugiura. Reproduced by permission of Phaidon. All rights reserved.

Petty Pandean-Elliott is an award-winning Indonesian chef, writer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and author of several bestselling Indonesian cookbooks. Petty was a judge for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (2016 and 2017) and a guest judge on Indonesian Iron Chef (2017). She was featured in Where Chefs Eat published in 2018 by Phaidon and was listed as one of Indonesia’s most powerful women by The Peak magazine (2015).


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