How to Make It
Fill a large bowl or stockpot with water, then add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the eggplants and weigh them down with a plate or other object; soak for 30 minutes to remove bitterness.
As the eggplants soak, make the Sambal Terasi. In a skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium, then add the shrimp paste. Cook until toasted, about 3 minutes, then add the chiles, bell peppers, shallots, garlic and half of the tomatoes. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a food processor or blender; add the remaining tomatoes and blend into a paste. Return the paste to the skillet and add the sugar, lime juice and salt. Continue to cook until slightly darkened, 2 more minutes. Season to taste, then set aside.
Preheat oven to 400°. Remove the eggplants from the salted water and pat dry. Season with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Over a baking sheet, spread 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Place the eggplants on the sheets cut side down and bake for 5 minutes. Flip the eggplants over, spoon on some Sambal Terasi onto each, then return to the oven; bake until soft, about 20 more minutes.
Removing the seeds and inner ribs from the chiles will reduce their spiciness. If handling the Thai chiles, be sure to use gloves. There are many variations of shrimp paste available at Asian markets, from salty Chinese shrimp sauce to Thai shrimp paste, the latter almost always containing soybean oil. I prefer the shrimp paste that’s sold in blocks, either labeled as Belacan (Malay) or Terasi (Indonesian). The blocks are easy to work with and usually only carry shrimp and salt as their ingredients.