Well, I didn’t know exactly where to go, but figured Wat Buddhametta: Tucson Buddhist Meditation Center at 1133 S. Swan Road might be a good start. I hadn’t been there before, but had heard the Buddhist monks living there were from Thailand, and that Thai cooking often included eggplant. So I loaded up a bag of eggplant and basil and headed out to take my chances.
I’d never met a monk before, and was nervous. I arrived to find several monks eating a gorgeous, fragrant meal. They seemed happy to see me. I let them eat and went to sit in their Buddha room for a while.
When lunch was over, I worked out a trade: Eggplant for cooking lessons. The abbot and headmaster of the center, Ajahn Sarayut, said that would be fine, and upon the delivery of another bag of eggplant, invited me back for a lesson.
Here’s how you make killer Thai eggplant, Wat Buddhametta-style: Squish up some garlic and thai chiles in something and simmer it in canola oil until your kitchen starts to smell fantastic. Add oyster sauce, a little black pepper, some fermented soy bean sauce and a bunch of eggplant. Stir until soft, mix in fresh basil and enjoy.
It is so good, and I thank the kind monks and workers at Wat Buddhametta — who also have a food trailer at the upcoming Tucson Meet Yourself festival - for welcoming me into their kitchen.
Next up: Pad Thai! Food sure is fun sometimes.