Eggplant in an Easy Thai Dish

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

We had takeout Thai the other night and when I mentioned to my daughter-in-law, Lynn, how much I enjoyed the eggplant dish, she said she had a recipe. So I tried hers, and it was every bit as good as the restaurant version.

A stir-fry of eggplant, ground pork and basil leaves is a scrumptious way to get the family to eat more vegetables. It’s extremely quick to put together, once you cook the eggplant.

There are two caveats to trying this recipe: the eggplant will take some time to microwave and you may need to make a trip to an Asian market or shop online to purchase some of the seasonings.

Microwaving Eggplant
The recipe requires that the eggplants be softened in the microwave first. You want the eggplant pieces to be tender, but still firm enough to hold their shape so you can stir-fry them. One way is to cut up the eggplants as directed in the recipe, place in a microwave safe dish with 1 tablespoon water, and microwave, covered, on high power until the eggplant pieces are tender, but firm. Stir every 2 minutes and check each time to keep from overcooking. Depending on your microwave, it may take about 6 minutes.

Another way is to pierce the eggplant with a fork along the length of the eggplant, and microwave whole, about 4 minutes (this is for the long, skinny Asian eggplant). Check every 2 minutes until done. When the eggplant is cooked, most of the skin will turn brown. When cool enough to handle, cut the eggplant as directed. I microwaved each eggplant separately to ensure more even cooking.

Asian Ingredients
If you’ve never used oyster sauce (called oyster flavored sauce on the bottle), it is a viscous, sweet, salty and briny sauce that comes in a tall bottle. Here’s a definition and brand recommendation from Cook’s Illustrated. We use Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Flavored Sauce. This higher-priced oyster sauce has a superior flavor.

Fish sauce comes in many grades and again, the more expensive brands seem to be the best. The one we use is the Flying Lion Brand. For information on how to buy fish sauce, check out author and teacher Andrea Nguyen’s post.

Once you have oyster sauce and fish sauce in your fridge, you’ll find many uses for these seasonings. They are mainstays in my pantry. In Friday’s newsletter, we’ll share some additional recipes for these ingredients from the Special Fork database.

Eggplant, Pork and Basil Stir-Fry
2 Asian eggplants (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon oil
2 to 3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or minced
2 to 3 whole Thai chiles, optional
½ pound ground pork
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
¾ cup basil leaves

To prepare eggplants: Cut eggplants crosswise in 2-inch pieces. Quarter each piece lengthwise to form fat sticks. Put the eggplant pieces into a microwave-safe bowl, add 1 tablespoon water, cover and microwave on high power 2 minutes at a time, stirring after every 2 minutes, until the eggplant pieces are brown and soft, but still hold their shape, about 6 minutes total; do not overcook. Actual microwave time will depend on the power of your microwave oven. Set aside.

In a large wok or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chiles and stir-fry a few seconds, just until fragrant; do not burn garlic. Add pork and stir-fry until browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggplants, oyster sauce, sugar and fish sauce, and stir-fry an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through. Add basil leaves and stir-fry, just until basil is wilted. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings as a main dish or 4 side dish servings.

Note: Asian eggplants are the long and skinny kind.

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Posted: Apr 3rd by Sandy_Hu