On the way home Friday, I stopped at an Asian market where they had some lovely Japanese eggplants. If you’ve never had this type of eggplant, I strongly recommend that you try them. They’re so much easier to deal with than the larger eggplant you get in a regular grocery store in the U.S. – you don’t need to peel them and they don’t have a lot of seeds. They also tend to have a less “bitter” aftertaste than the larger eggplants, which means you don’t need to include the step of salting and drawing liquid out of them.
To use in a stir-fry, simply wash the eggplants, trim off the ends and slice or cube them into bite-sized pieces. My dad has grown all kinds of eggplants for many years, so let me also give you a tip about choosing a good eggplant in the store or farmer’s market. Many people make the mistake of thinking eggplant should be soft because that means it’s “ripe”. That’s a misconception, an eggplant is only soft if it has been sitting around too long! A fresh eggplant will actually be firm and shiny, and the stem should look as if it has been recently cut. The ones shown in the picture above are actually not very fresh based on the stem, but they were still fairly firm and I knew I was going to use them quickly.
Eggplant can be included as one of the vegetables in pretty much any Thai curry dish, but I wanted to find a recipe that would showcase the eggplant. This was actually much more difficult than I expected, only one of my available Thai cookbooks had an eggplant recipe that seemed to fit the bill, an eggplant and tofu stir fry. It was worth searching for, though – quick, delicious, and vegetarian.
Eggplant with Tofu
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Japanese eggplants (3/4-1 lb.)
1/4 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
10 basil leaves
2-4 Thai chiles (depending on your spice preference), red or green, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp. black bean sauce
Wash the eggplant and slice into about 1/8-inch rounds. If there’s a thicker spot, you can slice them in half moons instead. In a non-stick skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the eggplant and tofu and stir-fry for about 5-7 minutes. Eggplant is a sponge for oil, so don’t be surprised if it mostly is absorbed. By the end of the cooking time, the eggplant should appear somewhat translucent. You can also cover and steam the dish for a short while to make sure they are cooked through.
Add the basil leaves, chiles and bean sauce and stir well to mix, just for another minute or so. Serve immediately over rice or rice noodles. This makes about 2-3 servings as a main dish.
Note: the original recipe called for yellow bean sauce, which is something I haven’t seen and didn’t have on hand. So I used the Chinese style black bean sauce instead, and it worked fine.
Adapted from: Keo’s Thai Cuisine, by Keo Sananikone