I just realized yesterday that the slender Asian eggplants I’ve been eating all these years are not Japanese eggplants but Chinese ones. I trusted that the Vietnamese grocer would label them correctly, and since the chefs at my favorite Japanese restaurant use the same ones for yaki nasu, I had no reason to doubt they were Japanese. When I found out that I was misled, I was all set to go on a search for a Japanese eggplant to see what it tastes like, but after a little research, I learned that the Chinese eggplants fare much better in most situations. They are paler in color, more slender, have less seeds and are never bitter.
So, for dinner, I marinated some chicken breasts that have been thawing in the fridge and stir-fried some Chinese eggplants with Thai basil for a quick dinner. Grilling is my favorite way to cook these eggplants, but stir-frying them with a bit of steam is a quick and easy solution when you're short on time...or if your grill pan is not big enough to grill both chicken and eggplant. :) The eggplants turned out soft, juicy and fully infused with the fragrant basil. And as always, grilling skewers of anything is always so much fun to eat that I almost forgot that it was just another weeknight.
Curry Chicken Skewers
(Yields 2-3 Entree Portions)
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
- 1 lemongrass bottom part, minced
- A tiny piece of ginger, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 Thai bird’s eye chili, minced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp Madras curry powder
- 1 tsp Vietnamese fish sauce
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro to garnish
- Bamboo skewers, soaked
Whisk ingredients together and pour over chicken. Toss well and put in fridge to marinate for at least an hour. When ready to grill, thread chicken strips onto wet bamboo skewers and grill on medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side. Garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro.
Thai Basil Eggplant
(Yields 2-3 Side Portions)
- 4 Chinese eggplants, chunked
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Thai bird’s eye chili, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup water
- 1 to 2 cups Thai basil leaves, shredded or whole
- Vietnamese fish sauce to taste
Heat up a large non-stick skillet and drizzle with olive oil. Throw in the chili and garlic and toss until fragrant. Add eggplant and continue to toss until garlic turn golden. Add a cup of water and cover with lid, allowing a bit of room for steam to escape. It should take about 5 minutes for the water to evaporate and the eggplant to finish cooking. When eggplant is tender, add basil and fish sauce to taste. Quickly toss everything together and take off heat. Serve immediately with hot jasmine rice.