Eggplant Salad

To me, summer begs for light, cool, refreshing dishes, and this definitely hits the spot. This recipe uses steam to cook the eggplant, requires very little oil and produces a soft, silky texture that’s quite pleasing to the mouth. Eggplant by itself can be a little bland, so here it gets a helping hand from its good buddy garlic, and a traditional Chinese salad dressing made from vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  

Asian Eggplant Salad
Asian eggplant salad 

This dish begins with fresh Asian eggplants, which are long, narrow and has a more tender flesh and thinner skin compared with the more common varieties.

Asian Eggplants
Asian eggplants 

Wash the eggplants, remove the stems, and cut into segments about 3 inches long. Cut each segment in half widthwise, and make 2 or 3 slits widthwise in each segment, but do not slice through all the way. Sounds complicated or confusing? Check out this picture! The goal is to cut the eggplant into more manageable pieces, and slit them so it can be seasoned on the inside.

Asian eggplant for salad

Now is a good time to prepare a steamer. If you have a steamer, put about 2 inches of water in the bottom and start bringing it to a boil. If you do not have a steamer, try using a rack like this one set on top of a wide-mouthed pot with water at the bottom.

Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic for each eggplant. Generously season the inside of the eggplant with salt and minced garlic, make sure to get it inside the slits. If you have time, let this sit for 30 min. If not, simply place the seasoned eggplants in one layer on a plate, pop it into the steamer with boiling water for about 20 minutes.

Eggplants seasoned and stuffed with garlic
Eggplants seasoned and stuffed with garlic 

While the eggplants are steaming, prepare the salad dressing: mix together 3 parts Chinese black vinegar to 1 part soy sauce to 1/2 part sesame oil.

Once the eggplants are cooked, carefully remove them remove from the steamer, pour the dressing on top, and allow to cool to room temperature. This may be served at room temperature or chilled. Flavour improves with time, so I recommend putting it in the fridge for a an hour or so before garnishing with chopped cilantro and serving.

Asian eggplant salad
Asian eggplant salad 

The taste test: lots of garlic-y flavour permeates throughout the layers of the eggplant. Good balance of sour (vinegar), salty (soy sauce) and umami (sesame oil). Eggplant is of course the star here, it tastes slightly sweet and provides a perfect vessel to mop up the delicious dressing.

Asian Eggplant Salad
Serves 4

  • 3 Asian eggplants, washed and cut into 3 inch segments 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 9 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced 
  • 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar 
  • 1 tsp soy sauce 
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil 
  • 3-4 sprigs cilantro, minced 
Method 

  1. Slit the eggplant widthwise, but do not cut down all the way 
  2. Fill a steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil 
  3. Season inside the slits of the eggplant with salt and minced garlic 
  4. Place eggplants in a dish in a single layer and steam over medium heat for about 20 min or until tender 
  5. In a small bowl, mix together vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil 
  6. Pour dressing on top of the steamed eggplant, mix well 
  7. Allow to sit at room temperature or chill for about an hour to let the flavours marry 
  8. Garnish with minced cilantro and serve 

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