This savory, squishy eggplant dish spiced with lots of garlic and Thai basil is a classic stir-fry in Taiwan.
I love eggplant.
I’m not sure what it is that makes me like this weird vegetable so appealing to me. Let’s see if I can make a list of reasons why I like eggplant:
- It’s pretty. The color is irresistible, that deep rich purple makes me wish that the world is in that color.
- Eggplants absorbs all the amazing flavor you cook it with. It’s pretty much a sponge before it’s cooked!
- The texture is interesting after it’s cooked. It is soft, yet not mushy (unless you over cook it), great for my grandma and young kids!
- There are about 100 ways to cook this purple veg
- It lasts in the fridge. I like food that can sit in the fridge incase I don’t have time to cook that day… or week.
- It’s healthy. “Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and copper. It is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.” -whfoods
- There’s a joke about it:
My friends (one’s English, the other French) went to a stir-fry place(one that they go to every Sunday) in Taipei and wanted to order this eggplant dish. They couldn’t find it on the menu(it’s all in Chinese) so they called the waiter over and told him that they wanted “aubergine”. The waiter didn’t understand them, so they tried saying “eggplant”. He still didn’t understand so he called over pretty much everyone who worked at the restaurant to try to figure out what they wanted. It was like a huge charades party. My friends tried sign language, spelling it out, then they broke it down and said it really slowly: EGG – PLANT. All of the sudden one of the cooks shouted out “AHH!! I KNOW!!”. They all cheered for a while and my friends let out a sigh of relief.
10 minutes later……
the cook came back with a plate of veggie omelette and a big proud smile on his face.
I bought my eggplants at the Rochester downtown farmers market, I was surprised by how many varieties there were! Usually the only kind I’ve ever seen in the US is the oval shaped fatty kind. I prefer the long snake looking ones, they tend to be softer and it’s the kind that’s used in most Taiwanese dishes.
One tricky thing about cooking these purple beauties is keeping it’s rich color… well, just keep it purple-ish. The problem is the anthocyanidin in the skin and tannin in the flesh reacts with oxygen then it all turn into a sad brown color.
The traditional way of preventing the browning in Taiwan(and a lot of people still do that) is to quickly drench the chopped eggplant in hot oil to fry it for a few seconds before stir-frying. The oil coats the eggplant, preventing chemical reaction happening but for eggplant being a sponge, this is probably not the healthiest option.
To fix this, acid and salt comes in to help. Soak your chopped eggplant in a bowl of water with salt and a dash of vinegar added to it to prevent the chemical reaction that browns the vegetable when it cooks. The salt also helps soften the flesh so it is easier to cook.
Next, the herbs and spice that goes into this dish: Thai basil and garlic. Most Taiwanese stir-fry dish are really heavy on garlic and I love it. I probably eat too much garlic everyday(is there such a thing?). It’s super healthy for you anyway! For basil, Thai basil seems to be the closest I could find to the Taiwanese variety, you can use sweet basil, but I like how Thai basil has a stronger kick. I found the Thai variety at Rochester downtown farmers market, you can also buy a whole plant at People’s food co-op(I did that too, they’re super easy to grow), or you can check out the Asian stores in town.
If you like spiciness, feel free to add some spicy chopped chili to the dish to spice it up.
Eggplant Stir-fry with Basil
Add 1tsp of salt and 2tsp of vinegar to a bowl of water and soak the chopped eggplants in it for 5mins, add a small plate on top to push the eggplants in the water
Serve with rice
- 4 Long Eggplants, sliced
- 4 Cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 Sprigs of spring onions, chopped
- 2C Thai Basil
- 1T Oil
- 1T Sugar
- 2T Soy Sauce
- Strain the eggplants
- Heat 1TBsp oil in a pan on medium high
- Add the chopped eggplants (try to coat them with oil)
- Add 1T Sugar and the chopped garlic
- Once the sugar is gone, add 2T soy sauce
- Cook till the soy sauce is absorbed and eggplants are soft
- Add the chopped spring onions
- Turn the heat off then add Thai basil and stir