stir-fried eggplant with thai basil-garlic sauce

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Eggplant drenched in stir-fry sauce is really hard to make look pretty in photos. I tried. No matter. It's delicious! As good as your local Thai takeout, really. Maybe better, depending on the quality of said local Thai place.

When I first started trying to make Thai flavors at home, I learned pretty quick that I'd better stock up on fish sauce. If you've never worked with fish sauce, just…don't take a whiff. The crushed souls of thousands of tiny fish are quite pungent. Anyway, this sauce uses a lot of fish sauce. And lime. Not making any claims to authenticity here (in the slightest) but the flavors are on point.

Fish sauce, lime, basil, scallions, eggplant: these are the key players here. I love eggplant, starting with the fact that it's purple and adding to that how delicious it is cooked up in sauces of both the Italian and Asian varieties. I just kind of wish that Americans had stuck to calling eggplant aubergine: is there really a cooler name for a vegetable? I doubt it.

Serve this stir-fry with some rice, brown if you're feeling virtuous. Or guilty, as I clearly was that day.

stir-fried eggplant with thai basil-garlic sauce

Notes: I highly recommend fresh ginger, but I'm often out, so I understand if you choose ground. I used the skinny "Japanese" eggplants, which I recommend (your nearest farmer's market will be filled with them), but a single large eggplant will work fine. As with any stir-fry, the key here is to have your veggies chopped and sauce ready to go before you heat the oil.

for the sauce:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1-2 limes)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon thai chili paste

for the stir-fry:
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
4 thin "Japanese" eggplants, chopped into 3/4-inch cubes
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 scallions, both green and white parts, sliced thin
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into 1/2 inch pieces

Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet (or a wok, if you have it!) over high heat until the oil is shimmery. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Clear a small space in the center of the skillet. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and then the garlic and ginger, cooking for about 20 seconds. Stir this mixture into the eggplant. Add the sauce and cook another 20 seconds or so, until thickened. Remove from heat, then toss in the scallions and basil. Serve over rice.

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