This smoky, zingy salad is popular in northeastern Thailand because of the irresistible flavor of its subtle char. Long, pale-green Asian eggplants are best, as they are less bitter than other varieties; choose the youngest, firmest ones you can find.
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6 Asian eggplants (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon small dried shrimp (optional)
1 tablespoon hot water
1 tablespoon palm sugar or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 small Thai chile, minced
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
How to Make It
Light a grill. Grill the eggplants over moderately high heat, turning frequently, until the skin is blistered and the flesh is just tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Cut off the stems and peel the eggplants. Cut the eggplants crosswise 1 1/2 inches thick and transfer to a serving plate.
In a small skillet, heat the canola oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to paper towels to drain. Add the dried shrimp to the skillet and cook until crisp, about 1 minute. Drain and coarsely chop the shrimp.
In a small bowl, mix the water with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and chile. Pour the dressing over the eggplant. Garnish with the fried garlic and shrimp and the egg, shallot and cilantro and serve.
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