Every so often I stumble upon a food blog post in which the author is trying to persuade his or her readers into “trying eggplant again”, with the underlying assumption that a lot of folks have tried eggplant and not liked it. Really? I guess I’ve always assumed that everybody was fully on board the eggplant train.
Granted the eggplant was likely well hidden under a heavy blanket of tomato sauce, bread crumbs and cheese, but I’m pretty sure that I fell for eggplant on my first try. I have a feeling that eggplant Parmesan was the gateway eggplant dish for many of us.
I think what I love most about eggplant is its versatility. It’s equally capable of stepping up to be star of the show as it is of fading into the background. In this quick and healthy Thai dish, eggplant is sauteed with red bell peppers in a spicy and sweet fish sauce-based sauce. A couple handfuls of Thai basil keeps the dish tasting fresh instead of heavy.
If you’re a fan of Vietnamese claypot dishes, this should be right up your alley. And while I liked the look of the eggplant wedges and red bell pepper strips best, if you’re really in a hurry, feel free to dice both the eggplant and bell pepper to help speed the cooking along.
Spicy Eggplant with Red Bell Pepper and Thai Basil
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
* 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons oil, divided
* 1 medium yellow onion, diced
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 red Jalapeno peppers, minced
* 4-5 Japanese eggplants, cut into 3-4" wedges
* 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
* 1/4 cup fish sauce
* 1 Tablespoon palm sugar (can substitute regular sugar)
* 1 cup water
* 40 Thai basil leaves
Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a wok or very wide, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and Jalapeno peppers and cook, until softened. Add the red bell pepper and cook, for one minute. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil and the eggplant and cook an additional 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the fish sauce, palm sugar and water and let the mixture come to a boil and then continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. If you'd like your eggplant extra soft, add more water and continue to cook until the eggplant reaches your desired texture. Add the basil leaves and give everything a quick stir. Remove from heat and serve.
Adapted from Simply Thai Cooking by Wandee Young & Byron Ayanoglu