I have been waiting until summer to try this steamed eggplant recipe from my friend Cathy Erway’s new cookbook, The Food of Taiwan. The time finally came when I received these scallions and a white and green eggplant in my farm share recently.
Cathy’s book is a thorough intro to the cuisine of the island and includes stunning photography by Pete Lee of the recipes, scenery, markets and people of Taiwan. I am a big fan of her writing and am an avid reader of her food blog, Not Eating Out In New York. I always learn something new from her, whether it be about an esoteric ingredient or the origin for a well-known dish. And I love her tone, which is always to the point and never flowery – a refreshing and unique point of view in the sea of food blogs out there. She is also the host of Eat Your Words, a weekly podcast on Heritage Radio, where she interviews cookbook authors.
The minute I got Cathy’s book, I read it cover to cover. She does an impressive job of weaving together the complex history, cultural makeup and diverse food traditions of Taiwan with her own family’s roots in the country. You get to see Taiwan from her eyes as an American college student living there for the first time and then again as she delves deep into its food culture as an adult. This is the type of cookbook I seek out because not only do you learn new recipes and techniques, but you also get a sense of place and context from where they were derived.
I was drawn to the steamed eggplant dish because believe it or not I have never steamed the vegetable. I always saute, roast or bake it. I guess the majority of recipes I have made with eggplant have either been Indian or Italian so that may explain it. I do love the soft texture of steamed eggplant and decided it was finally time I went the distance. This recipe also seemed like a relatively easy place to start having never cooked a Taiwanese dish before. The eggplant is first steamed and then flavored with soy sauce, scallions, chili peppers and garlic. These ingredients permeate the soft eggplant beautifully and I actually couldn’t wait to eat it so I ended up using the photo I took after I dug in;/
Congratulations to Cathy on a beautiful book and I’m looking forward to cooking more recipes in The Food of Taiwan.
Steamed Eggplant with Garlic and Chilies
recipe courtesy of The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway
2 long slender Asian eggplants, about 1 pound
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 scallion, chopped
4 to 5 small fresh red chilies, seeded and chopped (optional)*
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Prepare a large bamboo steamer** with boiling water underneath.
Trim the ends from the eggplant and cut into halves lengthwise. Sprinkle with the salt and arrange in the steamer. Cover the steamer and let cook until the eggplants feel soft to the touch all around, 8 to 10 minutes. Arrange the eggplant skin-side down on a serving dish. Sprinkle the garlic, scallions and optional chilies over each piece followed by a drizzle of the soy sauce and serve immediately.
*I used Indian green chilies.
**I used a metal steamer inside a saute pan filled with water and covered it with a lid.