Basil Eggplant


It is important for a cook to maintain a passion for all foods, ingredients, and cuisine. That is how a cook grows and improves. With that in mind, it’s time to switch it up. In Chinese home-style cuisine, eggplant and basil go hand in hand wonderfully well. This is a nice savory dish I’ve adapted with a few nifty tricks of my own. It looks nice, smells nice, and is pretty tasty to boot if you like eggplant, which you should. The vegetable has a great texture and absorbs flavors very well. The dish is also great served with rice, which I will show you how to make as well.

Overall time to make the dish is roughly 1 hour, of which ~40 minutes is waiting time.

Ingredients

New phone with better camera! Fuck yeah!

1 Eggplant*
1 Stick green onion, finely chopped
~3 oz Ground meat**
Basil ***
~1/2 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Soy Sauce****
1 tbsp White granulated sugar
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Minced Garlic (optional, or garlic powder)
Red Chili Pepper Flakes (optional)

*1 medium sized western eggplant, or 2 Asian type skinny eggplants
**Chicken is pictured, pork or beef preferred. I will discuss the difference in cooking approach for the different meats later.
*** Fresh is best, though for some reason I couldn’t find fresh at my grocery store. About half a teaspoon dried is fine.
**** This is regular soy sauce. If using dark soy, only need about half as much. If you don’t know the difference, look on your bottle. If it doesn’t say “dark” it’s regular or light.

If you are also making rice, make about enough to serve two.

Procedure

Part A: The Rice

First, this is a dish that goes well with rice. So I’ll go into making the rice first. Generally you want a medium or short-grained rice to go with Asian dishes. I use Calrose rice, which is a medium-grained rice grown in the West Coast United States. It’s a nice sticky rice with good texture. A lot of Asian restaurants are cheap and use Jasmine rice, which has a noticeably crappier texture. It’s still passable, but try better quality rice some time and you will notice the difference.

Anyhow, pour out about 1 1/2 cups of rice, which is roughly enough for two people. Wash and rinse the rice once, pour out the water, then fill to about 50% higher than the depth of the rice in your pot. The amount of water varies with rice amount and mostly comes with experience, so it’s actually hard for me to say. Here’s an unhelpful picture (the only one I took):

Uhh, yeah... just like that.

If you have a rice cooker, just use the rice cooker. If you don’t, here’s how you make it properly on the stove: first, turn heat on to simmer on one of the side stoves (the lowest it will go), and place the pot on the stove. Let the rice soak on the lowest heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to make sure nothing gets burnt or cooked on the bottom. Then, turn heat up to medium and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Take rice off the heat after this amount of time, and let sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Part B: Main Course

Anyone who has stir-fried with eggplant before knows that eggplant soaks up liquids fantastically well, including oil. Eggplant can soak up a LOT of oil, which also alters the way it cooks. The first step to this dish is overcoming this problem. Cube your eggplant into 1/2 inch pieces. If you’re using Asian eggplant, you can slice it into fancy 1-inch triangular pieces by slicing diagonally starting from the head, then rotating at odd angles while lopping off more pieces. Dump the eggplant into a pot or pan large enough to hold it all. Then, sprinkle your 1/2 tsp of salt over the eggplant. Shake the pot around to coat all pieces, like this:

Cutting into the raw flesh of an eggplant and then salting all the wounds. What do you vegetarians think about that, huh?

Let the eggplant sit for about 40 minutes. This allows the salt to bring the moisture in the eggplant out onto the surface. This slick layer of water then prevents oil from being soaked into the eggplant. Nifty, right?

When your eggplant is ready, put your pot onto the stove and crank the heat up to highest. If you’re using a non-stick pot you should temper the pot at medium heat for about 5 minutes before cranking the heat way up. Add oil. When the oil turns viscous and you can roll it around easily in the pot, you’re ready to cook.

IF YOU ARE USING GROUND CHICKEN: Dump chicken into the insanely hot oil and flash-fry it for about 5 seconds, then remove from heat. This allows you to infuse the oil with the flavor of chicken but not overcook the chicken. Fry the minced garlic next if you are using that. If not, dump your salted eggplant into the pot and skip the next paragraph.

IF YOU ARE USING GROUND PORK OR BEEF: Fry minced garlic first for about 30 seconds first. If you are not using garlic, dump eggplant and meat into the pot at the same time.

All shiny, unlike your pokemon.

Stir fry the eggplant for about a minute to coat it all in oil. Then, pour the soy sauce in. Stir fry until soy sauce is dry, and add the sugar and dried basil (only if you are using dried! If you are using fresh basil you add it in the end). Continue to stir fry until the eggplant is soft and almost (but not completely!) mushy. That’s when it is completely cooked through. Add chicken, fresh basil, and green onion in the end. Toss for 10-15 seconds, plate, and serve with rice.

You rike?

Through the entire cooking process, your pot should be relatively dry. All moisture is either absorbed into the eggplant or evaporated by the heat. If there is any moisture, then either you put in too much soy sauce or the heat is not high enough. As you cook the eggplant will take on a lovely sheen like you see in restaurants.

The Result

Sorry, this was taken before I bumped up saturation settings on the camera.

4.8 / 5 I really wanted to try this with fresh herbs, but it still turned out really nice. This is one of the rare dishes that I’m able to perfect by adapting a few tricks from other dishes I know. The meat in the picture is still white because I didn’t put any soy sauce in the chicken. If you are using beef or pork, that meat should turn brown because you are cooking it alongside your eggplant. If you wish to make a more visual impact, do not cook the green onion at all, but instead sprinkle it onto the eggplant after plating as a garnish.

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  1. Ma Po Tofu « Food in Mind

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