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Author Notes: Cool and fiery, refreshing and mellow, this Sichuan-style eggplant salad is an elegant cold-weather salad dish with its robust main veggie, leafless relief and saucy heat.
If you do want to add some leafy greens, I recommend slicing the eggplants into shorter segments and tossing it with robust leaves like kale, endive and raddichio, or baby spinach. —Jamie Pea
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a salad
- 2 Chinese eggplants (skinny and long), sliced into matchsticks about 5cm long, 1.5cm wide
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 piece of ginger about half the weight of the garlic, minced very finely
- 1 sprig of spring onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (use good, not cheap stuff)
- 2 tablespoons white rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or less)
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/8 teaspoon green Sichuan peppercorn oil (optional)
- In a large, wide pot bring about 3 liters of water to the boil with 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and 1 Tbsp white vinegar. When at a full rolling boil, add the eggplant matchsticks and flip them skin-side down. Let boil for 3 minutes then empty into a colander in the sink and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain off excess water.
- Combine all the sauce ingredients, except for the 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, and stir well.
- Stack the eggplant on a dish with enough depth to contain a shallow pool of sauce. Flip some skin-side-up and others flesh-side-up for prettiness points.
- Layer the chili, garlic, ginger and cilantro in a line on top of the stacked eggplants.
- Heat the 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a small saucepan until you can just start to see it smoke. Turn off the heat and bring the saucepan to the salad, pouring the hot oil evenly on top of the aromatics.
- Let this salad sit for 10 minutes to absorb all the flavors; serve and devour.
- If you like it punchier, you can prepare this salad 6 hours ahead of time and keep in a sealed glass container (or cling-filmed bowl) for the eggplants to suck up the tart, savoury sauce.