Thai Eggplant with Basil in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce
One of the things I love about travelling is wandering around with no particular destination and stumbling upon cool sites you may not have found otherwise. The other thing I love is getting to sample food from different places. And it’s super awesomesauce when these two travel perks collide.
When my fiancee and I took a trip to Nova Scotia last year, as vegans we obviously missed out on the classic lobster and fish and chips, but we DID come across a little unassuming Thai restaurant not far from our hotel. Famished and not wanting to walk much further up and down the hills of Halifax (boy did my ass and calves get a workout!), we stopped into this Thai place and sat down to one of the best Thai meals we have ever had in our lives. It was also ridonks cheap. I would have paid double what I did for a meal that awesome. Here’s the link if you’re ever on the East coast: http://www.talaythaihalifax.ca/
We actually went back again on our last night in Halifax because we wanted to guarantee a fantastic last meal for our trip. We didn’t regret it! Seriously, you should go.
This was my first real introduction to Thai eggplant, and I became absolutely addicted. We pigged out, staggered back to our hotel close to bursting with food and beached ourselves on the bed to digest. Clearly we have #noshame.
When we got home, I of course started trying to emulate the amazing Thai eggplant recipe I fell in love with. It took a few tries and tweaks but I made this version a few nights ago and as soon as we spooned it into our mouths, we both knew I had a winner.
So I’m SUPER excited to share it with you now. I generally shy away from sweet sauces to avoid overindulging on sugar – and I also just tend to prefer salty and spicy dishes – but this one is TOTALLY worth it. It’s sweet, spicy, and salty all at once. The version I had in Halifax didn’t include tofu but I added it to mine for a good shot of protein, and pumped in a couple more veggies too! It’s colourful, delicious, and nutritious! It also – of course – contains a healthy dose of garlic. 😉
This Thai eggplant recipe takes just over half an hour to prepare because it needs to simmer for a little bit, but it’s still a pretty quick recipe for time-crunched weeknights (you can do other things while it’s simmering) and it makes great leftovers! I make it with jasmine rice as a side, which is lovely, but you could also serve it with basmati, sticky rice, or regular white rice.
OMG I’m excited for you. Fo realz. Enjoy!
What you’ll need:
6 tbsp soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg’s soy seasoning sauce (GF) (.20)
2 tsp rice vinegar (super cheap, you can find it in most International aisles at grocery stores) (.10)
2 tbsp red chili sauce/paste (or more if you like spicy!) (.20)
2 tbsp sesame oil (.30)
5 tbsp brown sugar (.10)
6 lg cloves garlic, minced (.60)
5 tbsp water + 5 tbsp water, separated
1.5 cup frozen sweet green peas, thawed in hot water and drained (.60)
1 large red bell pepper, sliced thinly ($1.20)
1/2 large white cooking onion, sliced (.12)
1 large carrot, julienned or sliced thinly if you dont have a julienne peeler (.15)
1 x 400ml can baby corn, drained and rinsed thoroughly (.97)
About 20 snow peas, if you have them (.68)
3 large thai eggplants (those long skinny light purple eggplants), cut into bite-sized slices ($2.20)
2/3 cup chopped basil (Thai basil is ideal, but regular sweet basil is fine too) ($1.25, or from your garden!)
Coconut oil or canola oil as needed (for frying) (.20)
1/2 block firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into bite-sized pieces (.65)
1/4 cup dry volume rice per person (jasmine or other white rice) (.35)
1 tbsp corn starch + 2 tbsp water, blended (.05)
What you do:
1) Drain and press your tofu between dish towels, placing something hard on top, like a sturdy stack of plates, or a heavy pan.
2) Wash, thaw, and chop all your veggies and set aside.
3) Cut your tofu into bite-size chunks or slices, as desired, and pan-fry until starting to turn golden. Do not overcook. Set aside
4) While you’re babysitting the tofu, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a 2-cup measuring cup.
5) Heat about 3 tbsp of oil in a large skillet – or ideally a wok – on medium-low heat (eggplants absorb a lot of oil!) Add eggplants and 5 tbsp water, cover with a pot lid and simmer on low for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the eggplants are starting to get soft. Add the remaining veggies, tofu, and sauce; stir well and return the cover. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes or until veggies are soft but not mushy. Cook the rice while the veggies simmer.
6) Remove cover from pan, and slowly add the corn starch mixture to the veggies, a little bit at a time, stirring constantly with your other hand until desired sauce thickness is reached. Remove from heat and serve immediately (sauce will thicken as it stands, so don’t over-do it on the corn starch).
Makes 4 dinner servings on its own, or 6 servings when paired with rice.
Total cost: $9.92
Cost per serving: $2.48 (4), or $1.65 (6)
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