[gardeners] Eggplant

Shantihhh@aol.com (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Mon, 9 Jul 2001 17:33:44 EDT


This is a recipe of our dear friend Kasma Loha-unchit.  We first took classes 
from her in her tiny little kitchen in Oakland 14 years ago.  She has a 
fabulous site with about 30 of her best recipes.



Yum Makeua Yao

                                A Recipe of Kasma Loha-unchit.

A version of this article was originally printed in the May 28, 1997 edition
of the San Jose Mercury News.

Grilling Over Mesquite Adds a Rich Smoked Flavor to Spicy Eggplant Salad

The hot tropical climate of Thailand lends itself to outdoor cooking. In
fact, the kitchens of most traditional homes are in
open shacks behind the main house. In the countryside, farmers still live in
airy wooden houses on stilts, their kitchens
in the open area beneath, or on the verandah. Besides making cooking more
bearable in the heat of day, the openness of
the kitchens and their separation from the main living quarters keep the
fumes from charcoal stoves from smoking up the

Charcoal was the primary source of cooking fuel while I was growing up in
Thailand. I remember the heaving call of the
"charcoal man" as he pushed his heavy cart of black logs through our
neighborhood each week. Mother would buy her
load for the week, keeping the charcoal in a wooden bin in our kitchen
behind the house and breaking the logs into
smaller chunks when needed to fit into the different size burners. She
trained me to be the fire starter, a duty I most
enjoyed and learned to do with great proficiency. When we eventually
converted to natural gas, our family enjoyed the
cleanliness of the new convenience but missed the wonderful flavors that
charcoal cooking added to food - whether
grilled, boiled, or stir-fried.

Modernization has brought cleaner gas and electric cooking to urban areas,
but country folk and the poorer of the urban
population still rely on less expensive charcoal for their cooking. The
charcoal is not highly processed and does not
come in uniformly square briquettes as most Americans know charcoal to be;
rather, they are irregular charred logs that,
like mesquite, impart a delightful smoked flavor to food. Because of this,
grilling and roasting over hot coals continue to
be popular cooking techniques in Thai cuisine. Fine restaurants around the
country know well to keep a section of their
kitchens fueled on charcoal, and along city streets, sidewalk food vendors
grill all kinds of food over wood coals - from
chicken, pork, meatballs, squid on skewers, fish and sausages to bananas,
corn, sweet potatoes and yams, coconuts
and even whole eggs.

One of my vivid memories from childhood is helping Mother skewer and sizzle
large green chillies over hot coals. These
were followed by succulent eggplants, roasted and charred to perfection.
Both were then skinned, cut up into bite-size
strips, arranged beautifully on a serving plate and dressed with a limy hot

As you fire up your barbecue kettle or hibachi on hot days this summer,
grill up some eggplants and chillies along with
your chicken and meat for a spicy, lip-smacking dinner.

                          Spicy Mesquite-Grilled Eggplant Salad


       Mesquite charcoal and a small handful of mesquite wood chips
       4 long Asian eggplants
       4 jalapeno or fresno peppers
       10-15 Thai chillies (bird peppers), finely chopped
       Juice of about 2 limes, to taste
       2-3 Tbs. fish sauce, to taste
       2-3 tsp. sugar, to taste
       2 shallots, thinly sliced
       1/4 lb. small fresh shrimp, shelled and butterflied
       1 hard-boiled egg, cut into small wedges (6-8 pieces)
       A small handful of short cilantro sprigs

Start a batch of mesquite charcoal in a barbecue kettle and soak the wood
chips. While waiting for the coals, trim the
tops off the eggplants and the peppers. Make a hot-and-sour sauce by mixing
together the chopped Thai chillies, lime
juice, fish sauce and sugar. Let sit for the flavors to blend and mingle.

Prepare the remaining ingredients. Blanch shrimp in boiling water for 30
seconds to cook. Drain well and set aside.

Grill the eggplants and peppers whole over the hot mesquite, turning
occasionally until they are slightly charred on the
outside and have softened. For a stronger smoked flavor, add damp wood chips
to the red coals and cover the barbecue
kettle after each turning.

Place the grilled eggplants and peppers in a paper sack for a few minutes to
steam. When cool enough to handle, peel off
the charred skin and thin outer membrane. Cut each eggplant crosswise into
segments about 1 1/2 inches long, each
segment in half lengthwise, and each half in 2-3 strips, depending on the
size of the eggplant. Arrange on a serving
platter and spread the sliced shallots over the top.

Cut the skinned peppers into long, thin strips. Do not remove the seeds if
you want an extra spicy salad. Arrange in an
attractive design over the eggplants and shallots and top with the cooked

Taste and adjust the spicy lime sauce so that it is equally sour and salty
with a hint of sweetness. Spoon evenly over the
salad. Garnish with egg wedges and cilantro. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 6-8.