Eggplant “Spaghetti” with Far East and Mid-East Sauces
I know that eggplant is not for everyone but I love it and maybe someone out there does as well so here it goes (why am I appologizing?). I have had these three Japanese (or are these chinese?) eggplants in my fridge for a few days now. They are the long skinny eggplants with purplish skin that are available every now and then in our markets. They have thin, edible skin and their flavour is milder than the regular plump conventional eggplants.These three have been hanging around my kitchen and were beginning to feel neglected and it was time to give them some attention.
I have several ways of preparing eggplants Mediterranean style but was hoping to keep the flavours true to their Asian origin. I looked around in my Asian cookbook collection for ideas. I found a recipe in the late Barbara Tropp’s book The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking (Chuntung Cold Eggplant with Sesame Sauce) that had information and a recipe for using this specimen. She suggested roasting them whole first and then cutting into spaghetti-like strands and tossing with spicy sesame sauce. I loved the idea of eggplant “spaghetti” but didn’t have the exact ingredients for the sauce. You have to adapt in the kitchen so here is my version for eggplant “spaghetti” with two different sauces: Peanut-Chili sauce and mediterranean Tahini Sauce. I also changed the cooking method from roasting to a quick sauté as I find that it adds flavour and I like the texture it gives the eggplant ribbons. If you want the original recipe you know where to find it (link to the book provided above).
When sautéing the eggplant keep in mind that it soaks up oil like a sponge. You may need to add more oil to prevent it from drying. I forgot to photograph the eggplants before cutting them into ribbons. I will add some more visuals next time I buy them. For more info on Asian eggplant you can check here at the Asian Evergreen Seeds website. You can serve this as an appetizer, a side dish, pile onto bread or stuff into mini pitas.
2-3 elongated Japanese or Chinese eggplants
Olive or peanut oil as needed
1 teaspoon salt or more
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped, loosely packed
Sesame-Tahini Sauce or Peanut-Chili Sauce (see below)
Directions for cooking the eggplant:
Wash and dry the eggplants but do not peel. Cut each eggplant into thin slices from top to bottom. Cut each slice into spaghetti-like strips. If you end with some slices that are almost all skin you can discard them, although the skin is edible once cooked. I use some of it to add the purplish skin colour to the dish.
Heat about 3 tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet. Add the eggplant ribbons and toss over medium heat for a few minutes until cooked through and golden. You may need a little more oil as the eggplant soaks it up quickly. Sprinkle salt over and toss to distribute. When cooked through, drain excess oil and set aside. When the eggplant reaches room temperature toss it with most of the cilantro, reserving some for garnish.
To serve pile a few strands per person in a small dish and serve with one of the sauces suggested. Serve at room temperature.
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/3 cup water or more
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice from a lemon wedge
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 small garlic clove, grated
Combine tahini paste with water and mix until the mixture is creamy, the consistency of a thick cream. Add enough water to reach this consistency. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and enough garlic to taste. Stir well and let sit for 30 minutes for flavours to merge. If the mixture becomes too thick, thin it out with a bit more water.
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon Thai chili sauce
Place peanut butter in a bowl, add soy saucer and whisk until mixture is smooth. Add sesame oil, honey and chill sauce and mix to combine. If mixture is too thick thin it out a bit with water, a teaspoon at a time.
Pile the eggplant spaghetti into a serving bowl or individual appetizer dishes, drizzle with some of the sauce (either one), garnish with remaining cilantro and serve.
Alternatively, mix the eggplant ribbons with the sauce and refrigerate a while to combine flavours. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
The eggplant with tahini can be served in mini pita pockets or spooned on top of baguette slices. The eggplantt with peanut-chili sauce can be served as a first course or alongside other asian style foods.