I’d never really liked eggplant until I moved to Hoi An. I used to think of eggplant as bland and a little soggy but Hoi An local eggplant dishes convert me to a die-hard fan of this vegetable. One of the most popular ways of cooking eggplant here is to char-grill it until it has a smoky, sweet flavor, then you peel the skin and serve it with scallion sauce. Another way is to sauté it with five-spice powder and then serve it with crispy fried shallot. I really love those two dishes but I usually eat them out in restaurants because local chefs definitely do a better job than I do. When I cook eggplant at home, I like this simple recipe that an old lady at a local organic farm taught me when I went there to buy vegetables. The eggplant in this recipe has a meaty texture and a wonderful combination of sweet, savory and spicy flavors. Fresh herbs like cilantro or basil give it a fresh and fragrant finish. This dish is naturally vegan and I love that it’s very quick to make. By the way, make sure to choose the long, slim eggplant as in the picture below. It’s the best kind for this recipe. Enjoy!
Sautéed eggplant with garlic, chili and herbs
Serves 1 as a main dish
Eggplant: 1 pound (1/2 kg), stemmed, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices
A bunch of cilantro or basil, coarsely chopped
Soy sauce: 2 tablespoons
Sugar: 1 tablespoon
Pepper: 1 teaspoon or more to taste
Minced chili: 1 teaspoon
Cooking oil: 4 tablespoons
Minced garlic: 1 tablespoon
Salt: 1 tablespoon
In a pot, add salt and a generous amount of water (enough to cover eggplant when added). Bring to a boil. Add eggplant slices. Cook for 5 minutes without covering. Stir occasionally to submerge the eggplant in water.
Remove from heat. Strain the eggplant into a colander, discarding the water. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, sugar, pepper and chili. Set aside.
Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Add oil. Add garlic and sauté to release fragrance, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to low to avoid oil splashing when adding eggplant. Add eggplant. Turn up heat to high. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture and sauté for 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Add herbs and more pepper (optional). Mix well and serve with steamed jasmine rice or on its own.