- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Garlic, mint and chili are frequent companions in Thai cooking. Eggplant, with its unique capacity to absorb strong flavors and become meltingly tender, is an ideal meeting ground for this trio.

I like to use the small, slim Japanese eggplants for this dish. They slice beautifully into neat little rounds. If this type of eggplant is unavailable to you, go ahead and use the regular size. It will work just fine.

About the serrano chilies: These small and brightly colored specimens are quite hot. Most of the heat is concentrated in the seeds. Depending on your tolerance, you may choose to seed (or partially seed) the chilies before slicing them.

In any case, wash your hands (and the cutting equipment, including the board) with soap and warm water immediately after handling the chilies, especially before touching your face or eyes.

About 45 minutes before serving time, put 2 cups brown basmati rice to cooking in 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer.

Ideally, place a “waffle” heat absorber under the pot. Allow it to cook undisturbed for about 40 minutes, or until tender. (Make the entree while the rice simmers.)

You might need to add a little extra water (up to 1/4 cup) at the end if the rice is underdone. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Eggplant with garlic, mint and chilies

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil

1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic (rounded measure)

2 red serrano chilies, cut into very thin rounds (with all, some, or none of the seeds — see above)

1 pounds eggplant, cut into very thin (1/8-inch) slices (If using a large eggplant, cut into quarters lengthwise, then slice.)

teaspoon salt (or to taste)

3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese cooking sake) or sherry

2 tablespoons light-brown sugar or light-colored honey

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons water (more as needed)

1/4 cup (packed measure) coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves

Extra mint and some minced cilantro for the top (optional)

Place a large, heavy, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat and wait about 2 minutes. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Keeping the heat medium-low, add the garlic and chilies, and cook for just 10 seconds.

Add the eggplant and salt, stirring well. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.Add the mirin or sherry, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar or honey, soy sauce, lime juice and water, mixing with a small whisk or a fork until uniform.

Add this mixture to the eggplant, cover again, and cook over medium-low heat another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Check a few times to make sure it isn’t sticking. If it is, add a little more water. When the eggplant is very tender, stir in the chopped mint, and remove from heat.

Serve over rice, topped with a light sprinkling of additional mint and some minced cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.


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