This is an excellent starter or snack, perfect with a cold beer on a hot evening. Crunchy battered eggplant, soft and creamy on the inside, is tossed with an array of fresh aromatic Asian herbs and a bold sprinkling of green chilli.
- 200 g white apple (Thai) eggplants (approximately 6)
- ½ tsp table salt
- 100 g cornflour
- 50 g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 150 ml sparkling water
- vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 2 long green chillies, cut into 2 mm slices on a slight angle
- 6 thin spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut into 10 cm batons
- 1 cup coriander leaves with a little bit of stem left on
- ½ cup Thai basil
- ½ cup Vietnamese mint
- 5 large shiso leaves, sliced into 5 mm strips
- river salt and white pepper, to season
- lime wedges, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 40 minutes
Cut the eggplants into quarters from top to bottom, leaving the calyx attached. Place in a bowl with the salt and toss to coat. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Place the flours and pinch of salt in a bowl and slowly whisk in the sparkling water until you have a smooth, thick batter.
Squeeze out eggplant and shake off any liquid before placing them into the batter. Set aside for another 20 minutes or so, using a spoon to stir occasionally.
Place oil in a wide-based pan to about 8 cm deep and heat to about 180°C. Have a metal rack sitting over a tray at the ready.
This is where it can potentially get a little messy. It’s easiest to use your hands to gently drop the batter-coated eggplant into the oil. You will need to do this in two batches. Please note that as this batter is quite thick, once the eggplant goes into the oil there is a chance it will clump together. Carefully use a pair of tongs and a long spoon to gently pry the pieces apart.
Once your first batch of eggplant is floating freely around the oil, use a slotted spoon to keep it moving. Fry for about 3 minutes, until the batter is crispy, and then gently add half the chilli and spring onion. Fry for another 30 seconds or so before scooping everything out and onto the rack. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, chilli and spring onion.
Transfer to a bowl, season well and toss to combine. Add the herbs and give the dish a brief final mix before serving on a platter. Eat immediately, squeezing lime as you go.
• This particular combination of herbs is my current favourite but do feel free to substitute at whim.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Deborah Kaloper. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
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This recipe is part of The Seasonal Cook: Eggplant column.
View previous The Seasonal Cook columns and recipes.