Eggplant, Chile, Soy
Source: Nigel Slater, Greenfeast: Spring, Summer
Crisp eggplant. Hot, sweet chile sauce.
I use small eggplants, the size of a duck egg, for this. They tend to live in Middle Eastern and Asian greengrocers. The heat of the oil is important, being hot enough to set the thin batter but not so hot the batter burns before the flesh is cooked. About 320°F/160°C is fine.
1⁄4 cup/60ml ice water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons chile paste
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
14 oz/400g eggplants
1 cup/240ml sunflower, peanut, or vegetable oil
a few cilantro leaves
a small and hot red chile
Whisk together the egg, water, and flour. Salt lightly and set this batter aside.
Put the brown sugar in a small saucepan with the vinegar, soy sauce, and chile paste. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and set this sauce aside. Tip the sesame seeds into a small, shallow pan and toast over moderate heat until fragrant and walnut brown. Remove the pan from the heat.
Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise and then into six segments. Heat the oil in a small, deep pan, then, when it is thoroughly hot, dip the eggplant pieces in the batter and add them carefully to the oil. Cook for five minutes or until the outer batter is crisp, the inner flesh soft as marshmallow.
Drain each piece of eggplant briefly on paper towels, then trickle the chile sauce over the top, sprinkle with some of the sesame seeds, and serve with a little cilantro for those who like it, and perhaps a small, ripe chile, sliced as thin as tissue paper.
Reprinted with permission from Greenfeast: Spring, Summer by Nigel Slater, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Jonathan Lovekin © 2021.