Recipe

Crispy Thai Eggplant Salad

by Sasha Marx

During a recent shoptalk conversation with executive editor Dan Souza, we got to discussing our shared appreciation for a somewhat foreign approach to fried food—the fry-then-marinate approach. While we love crispy, crunchy fried things just as much as anyone (see: Koji Fried Chicken), there are some equally delicious dishes that deliberately add supersavory liquids to fried foods to partially sog them out while flavoring them deeply (Mexican braised chicharrónes and even classic Buffalo wings are good examples). I wanted to give eggplant the same treatment. For this recipe, I took elements from Sicilian caponata—eggplant, tomatoes, herbs, and a vinegar bite—and married them with intense Thai flavors. We use the same microwave dehydrating method from our Charred Sichuan-Style Eggplant and then shallow-fry the eggplant before marinating it in nam prik—a bright Thai condiment made with lime juice, fish sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and chiles. We toss in juicy cherry tomatoes, a healthy amount of fresh herbs, and crispy fried shallots for a dish that delivers all of the five tastes and as many different textures. Pescatarians will love this salad served with a side of sticky rice, while meatier folks might want to serve it with a grilled rib eye to make an awesome steak salad.  

Yield
Serves 2-3
SFS_Crispy_Thai_Eggplant_Salad-0094.jpg
Ingredients
60 g fish sauce
50 g unseasoned rice vinegar
50 g plus 3 g lime juice, divided
50 g palm sugar, cut into 1-inch pieces
20 g (1 (2-inch) piece) ginger, peeled and chopped coarse
20 g garlic, chopped coarse
2 g red Thai chiles (about 1 chile), seeded and sliced thin
150 g cherry tomatoes, halved
650 g Japanese eggplant (2 large eggplants), sliced in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces
3 g kosher salt
440 g vegetable oil
5 g fresh cilantro leaves
5 g fresh mint leaves
5 g fresh Thai basil leaves
25 g Fried Shallots
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon lime juice, divided
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) palm sugar, cut into 1-inch pieces
1  (2-inch piece) ginger, peeled and chopped coarse
4  garlic cloves, chopped coarse
1  red Thai chile, seeded and sliced thin
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2  large Japanese eggplants, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups vegetable oil
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup fresh Thai basil leaves
½ cup Fried Shallots
Essential Equipment
Instructions
    • 60 g fish sauce 
    • 50 g unseasoned rice vinegar 
    • 50 g lime juice 
    • 50 g palm sugar, cut into 1-inch pieces 
    • 20 g ginger, (1 (2-inch) piece) peeled and chopped coarse 
    • 20 g garlic, chopped coarse 
    • 2 g red Thai chiles, seeded and sliced thin 
    • 150 g cherry tomatoes, halved 
    Process fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice, palm sugar, ginger, garlic, and chiles in blender on high until ginger, garlic, and palm sugar are broken down and dressing is mostly smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium serving bowl and stir in tomatoes. Set aside while preparing eggplant.  
    • 650 g Japanese eggplant (2 large eggplants), sliced in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces 
    • 3 g kosher salt 
    Toss eggplant and salt together in medium bowl. Line entire surface of large microwave-safe dish with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over coffee filters. Microwave on high power until eggplant feels dry and pieces shrink to about 1 inch, about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through to dry sides evenly. Remove eggplant from microwave and immediately transfer to paper towel–lined plate. 
    • 440 g vegetable oil
    Heat oil in large Dutch oven over high heat to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Fry eggplant, stirring occasionally, until flesh is deep golden brown and edges are crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towel–lined baking sheet or plate and blot to remove excess oil. Transfer to bowl with nam prik and toss to evenly dress. 
    • 5 g fresh cilantro leaves 
    • 5 g fresh mint leaves 
    • 5 g fresh Thai basil leaves 
    • 3 g lime juice 
    • 25 g fried shallots  
    Toss cilantro, mint, basil, and lime juice together in small bowl. Thoroughly fold half of herb mixture into eggplant. Top eggplant mixture with remaining herb mixture and sprinkle with fried shallots. Serve. 
Instructions
    • ¼ cup fish sauce 
    • ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar 
    • ¼ cup lime juice 
    • ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) palm sugar, cut into 1-inch pieces 
    • 1 (2-inch piece) ginger, peeled and chopped coarse 
    • 4 garlic cloves, chopped coarse 
    • 1 red Thai chile, seeded and sliced thin 
    • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
    Process fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice, palm sugar, ginger, garlic, and chiles in blender on high until ginger, garlic, and palm sugar are broken down and dressing is mostly smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium serving bowl and stir in tomatoes. Set aside while preparing eggplant.  
    • 2 large Japanese eggplants, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces 
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    Toss eggplant and salt together in medium bowl. Line entire surface of large microwave-safe dish with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over coffee filters. Microwave on high power until eggplant feels dry and pieces shrink to about 1 inch, about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through to dry sides evenly. Remove eggplant from microwave and immediately transfer to paper towel–lined plate. 
    • 2 cups vegetable oil
    Heat oil in large Dutch oven over high heat to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Fry eggplant, stirring occasionally, until flesh is deep golden brown and edges are crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towel–lined baking sheet or plate and blot to remove excess oil. Transfer to bowl with nam prik and toss to evenly dress. 
    • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves 
    • ½ cup fresh mint leaves 
    • ½ cup fresh Thai basil leaves 
    • 1 teaspoon lime juice 
    • ½ cup fried shallots
    Toss cilantro, mint, basil, and lime juice together in small bowl. Thoroughly fold half of herb mixture into eggplant. Top eggplant mixture with remaining herb mixture and sprinkle with fried shallots. Serve. 
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