I can't say I'm new to the joys of eggplant. Eggplant parm, baba ghanoush, dressed and grilled, I love it all. I can say it was only recently that I discovered how wonderfully the purple-skinned vegetable pairs with basil in an Asian-style sauce. Simple and fragrant, the following recipe is not only easy to prepare, but is also a great way to use up a bunch of those fresh veggies from your local farmers market, CSA, or home garden.
Eggplant with Basil
makes about 4 servings
- 3 medium-sized Chinese eggplants, halved and chopped into 1"-1.5" pieces or 12-16 small eggplant ("Fairy Tale"), halved
- 2 large bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
- 1 medium onion, cut into large pieces
- 3 Thai or serrano chiles, sliced thin
- 3 tbsp garlic, minced or sliced thin
- 1/2 c Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp medium to high-heat oil (I used walnut)
- 2-3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp sugar
- 3/4 cup warm water
In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves; set aside.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tbsp of oil. When hot, carefully add eggplant pieces; fry for about 2 minutes, or until they just begin to brown or soften. Remove from pan. Add 1 tbsp oil and onions; cook for about 2 minutes or until soft and glossy. Remove from pan. Add the remaining 2 tbsp oil, garlic, and hot peppers; cook until garlic begins to turn golden, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Add bell pepper and onions; cook for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add eggplant and toss or gently stir to combine all ingredients. Pour in the sauce and stir to ensure even coating; cook for another minute or so, until the sauce thickens a bit. Throw in your basil and cook another 30 seconds; turn off heat and serve immediately.
My Two Cents:
Make this side dish a meal by adding rice and green vegetables; kale or Asian greens sauteed with garlic and oil, or spicy garlic green beans are recommended. Go the extra mile and make it a three-course dinner by serving some overnight pickled cabbage with peanuts as an appetizer and some fresh fruit (melon season has arrived, wink wink) for dessert.
This dish is SO close to being vegan. If you are looking to make it completely free of animal products, try out this recipe for faux fish sauce featuring ingredients such as seaweed and shiitake mushrooms, which create an umami (pronounced "oo-mah-mee;" meaning a pleasant savory taste) quality similiar to that imparted by actual fish sauce.
Images by Rebekah Carter (2011). Eggplant recipe adapted from Epicurious.