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Recipe: vietnamese braised eggplant

This site went through a series of upgrades right before I hit the road, and apparently we shouldn’t have trusted the captcha update because it wouldn’t allow any comments to go through for a day. That is now fixed and I apologize for any annoyance it may have caused.

Earlier this week Jeremy, Kaweah, and I piled into the car and headed south to the San Juans to see what could be salvaged after the freeze. Driving our usual routes, I exchanged texts with a friend who was driving the other usual routes and we were both reporting the same: brown, dead, done. You shouldn’t be discouraged though! There are always those nice little close-up shots of single stands or trees to be had, but we were fishing for the bigger catches.

waiting for sunset, not hopeful (iphone)

the view from where i waited

last light on mount sneffels

I cut my losses and ended the trip early. Jeremy kept saying how sorry he was that the season was so bad and I kept telling him to quit being sorry. Sure it’s a bummer, but it isn’t the end of the world and I managed a few keepers despite the suckage. We (as in Colorado) had two excellent seasons in 2011 and 2012 – back to back awesomeness. Bad years will happen and do happen. I accept that. And if you’re in any sort of business that relies on Nature, you’d better expect it. Not to mention, it meant I could finally go for a hike without hauling all of my gear. So that’s what we did upon our return to Crested Butte.

the aspens are nothing to write home about, but what a stellar view

We’ve also been enjoying evening trail runs since I don’t have to hang around to wait for sunset over gold-draped mountains anymore. The days have been sunny, warm, and clear such that running in the shadow of the mountains late in the day is just the right temperature to start out. By the time we’re done, the world is fading from purple to blue and the chill begins to creep in. It’s the perfect time for a nice hot meal, and I’ve been loving on eggplant lately.

japanese eggplant

Given my druthers, I prefer Japanese eggplant to regular eggplant. It’s long, skinny, and has fewer seeds. I can’t reliably source Japanese eggplant unless I travel to the Asian markets out in Broomfield (Pacific Ocean Market) or Denver (HMart and other Asian grocers) or find them at the farmer’s market. The ones at the Asian markets are not always in the best shape, but I really wanted to try this recipe for Vietnamese braised eggplant with coconut milk and scallions by Charles Phan of The Slanted Door.

make the vietnamese stir-fry sauce: fish sauce, chicken broth, sugar

bring the broth to a boil, then add sugar

and some fish sauce

Now, it may look like a lot of ingredients, but the prep time is mostly slicing and mincing of vegetables – maybe five to ten minutes. The whole dish comes together in less than 10 minutes on the stove, so this is a great recipe to serve on weeknights that won’t suck up your entire evening.

vegetable oil, water, eggplant, green onions, onion, garlic, coconut milk, chili sauce, chinese cooking wine, vietnamese stir-fry sauce

slice the eggplant

slice the onions

all prepped and ready for cooking

The first step is to dry-fry the eggplant. My mom taught me to do this a long time ago because it reduces the amount of oil that the eggplant absorbs when you stir-fry it. If you’re okay with oilier eggplant, then feel free to skip the dry-fry, although you will want to cook it a little longer (to make sure it cooks through).

dry fry the eggplant, then remove it to a bowl

add the eggplant to sautéed onions and garlic

add the cooking wine and let it evaporate

If you want to make this dish vegetarian, I think it’s easy enough to replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. The only thing I’m unsure of replacing is the fish sauce, but the good people at The Kitchn have a recipe for vegan fish sauce if you are so inclined.

pour in the coconut milk and vietnamese stir-fry sauce

add chili sauce for some heat

and last: the green onions

I pretty much love eggplant any which way, but I eat it most often Chinese-style. This Vietnamese version is both different and wonderful. It makes a great side dish or main dish and it is especially awesome with a bowl of steamed rice (this coming from a self-proclaimed noodle girl).

eggplant love

Vietnamese Braised Eggplant
[print recipe]
from Food and Wine

1 1/4 lbs. Asian eggplant, cut into 3 x 1/2-inch pieces
2 tbsps vegetable oil
1 medium onion, quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly
2 tsps garlic, minced
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine, sake, or water
1/2 cup Vietnamese stir-fry sauce (see below)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsps water
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk, stirred
2 tsps Asian chili paste
4 green onions, green parts only – cut into 3/4-inch pieces

vietnamese stir-fry sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tsp sugar

Make the Vietnamese stir-fry sauce: Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in the fish sauce and the sugar until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Make the eggplant: Heat a large frying pan (not non-stick) over high heat and dry-fry the eggplant in batches if necessary. Just add the eggplant to the hot pan and let it sit for a minute or so until it begins to brown and wilt. Stir it around so other sides get browned for another minutes or more. Remove from heat and empty the eggplant onto a plate or bowl. Return the pan to the flame and heat the vegetable oil on high until hot. Add the onion (not the green onion) and garlic to the oil and stir-fry for a minute. Add the eggplant and stir-fry until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Chinese cooking wine and cook until it is nearly evaporated. Pour the Vietnamese stir-fry sauce, water, coconut milk, and chili paste into the pan and stir it together. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the green onions and let cook for another 30 seconds until wilted, but still bright green. Serve immediately. Serves 4 as a side dish.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

fish-flavored eggplant otsu noodles (sesame soba noodles) eggplant fries chinese dry-cooked string beans

20 nibbles at “kerplop”

  1. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    Those mountain photos are gorgeous!! Love it! Also, I freaking love eggplant!

  2. Angie says:

    Looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe, can’t wait to try it before all the eggplant is gone from farmers markets.

  3. Kalyn says:

    This has my name all over it!

  4. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    i think you got some pretty amazing captures anyway!

    we’ve had a short, sad season here also – next year will be better!

  5. jill says:

    Mother Nature always wins. That’s good.

  6. Sophie says:

    Aubergines are my jam these days — I am looking for every new way to eat them that I can! And what could be better than a Vietnamese style? I’m headed to the Asian market this afternoon — can’t wait to try!

  7. Kath the Cook says:

    Must try! I can get excellent Japanese eggplant too. Thanks for the dry-fry tip. Will mirin be OK for Chinese cooking wine or is it the same thing?

  8. Cherie says:

    Utter gorgeousness despite the disappointments you found – thank you for sharing so much beauty so foreign to this city girl!

  9. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Like the dry frying of the eggplant. Never knew you could do that. And great recipe. I love, love, love Vietnamese!

  10. Melissa says:

    1) Sorry about the season. Poop.
    2) I far prefer Japanese eggplant!
    3) I thought the comment thing was just me trying from my phone that day. Kind of glad to know it wasn’t. ;)

  11. Amanda W. says:

    Your not so great foliage is still remarkable seen from the mid-atlantic where all our oak trees just turn rusty and fall down.

    Thanks for pointing out the veg option! I bet adding some tofu would make it a heartier meal and still be delicious.

  12. Amanda W. says:

    wait – it’s the LEAVES that fall down, not the trees!

  13. Hande says:

    Eating this as we speak – so delicious. Thank you for this addition to our “asian” reportoire, Jen!

  14. Nonny says:

    I must try this. It looks so yummy

  15. Cindy says:

    I made this over the weekend. BEST EGGPLANT we have ever had. I like the dry frying too. So much better than salting and blotting.

  16. Lisa @ Je suis alimentageuse says:

    I love eggplant! And I especially love the Chinese variety =) I’ve never heard of Viet braised eggplant though, and I’m Viet! haha, looks delicious. I’ll try the vegetarian version sometime, great photos as always, Jen!

  17. Tina Jui says:

    Beautiful pictures of the mountains. I’ve been to Colorado once and I absolutely loved it! Also I love the nice purple on the eggplants. I just moved to the UK, so I’m getting used to having to call them aubergine…

  18. jenyu says:

    Katrina – thank you! And yeah, eggplant rocks my world :)

    Angie – yeah, one of our markets has already ended and the other only has a few weeks left!

    Kalyn – :) xxoo

    Rocky Mountain Woman – you’re very kind :) Yeah, next year will be better!

    Jill – ;)

    Sophie – soooo good! I hope you like it as much as I do!

    Kath – wow, I’m jealous! Our japanese eggplants are so hit and miss around here. I do think it’s worth getting the Chinese cooking wine rather than mirin – they have different flavors. Good luck!

    Cherie – thank you!

    Abbe – it’s great for meaty and dense mushrooms too!

    Melissa – ha ha ha! Love you, Mel!! xo

    Amanda – I think adding tofu would be awesome too! I grew up in the mid-Atlantic and the autumns there weren’t too horrible :)

    Hande – YAY!!!! xoxo

    Nonny – I hope you like it!

    Cindy – totally awesome to hear!

    Lisa – I think this is more of a fusion recipe since it’s from the Slanted Door resto in SF! I rather like the take on it!

    Tina – I think aubergine is a much prettier name :)

  19. Kelley says:

    Finally tried this last night but added a little more coconut milk. Really good, despite my crap electric stove. :(
    And yes, the “dry fry” method is one I’ll be using many more times. Thanks for the tip!

  20. 23rd April: Vietnamese Braised Eggplant | Nom Nom Nom says:

    […] Adapted from: […]

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