I recently read in the latest edition of the newly revived French Master Chef magazine that Vietnamese cuisine includes at least 500 dishes. 500 dishes – that’s astronomical! After reading that, I feel like a neophyte of my own cuisine, even though I grew up in a Vietnamese household subsisting mostly on foods from my parents’ native country. I haven’t even come close to eating through the cuisine, and I’m constantly discovering dishes through my MIL’s kitchen, exploring restaurants and the internet, which gives me the chance to uncover the cuisines from around the world without having to set foot on an airplane.
One of my favorite dishes that I’ve learned to make is sautéed Japanese eggplant. I don’t recall ever having had this variety of eggplant back in the US, but this has become one of my vegetables of choice for its milder taste and ease of preparing. This dish is an ideal weekday meal because it is composed of easy to find ingredients and only takes 15 minutes to throw together. Though meatless, this savory-sweet dish is chock-full of flavor and will leave even the pickiest taste buds satisfied.
Sautéed Japanese Eggplant
3 Japanese eggplants
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce*
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2-3 green onions, cut into 3-4 cm lengths
2 tablespoons oil
Cut the eggplant into 5-6 cm lengths and then cut them into quarters lengthwise. Then, soak in water with the juice of half a lime to prevent the eggplant from discoloring. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and brown sugar and set aside. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat and cook the garlic until it becomes fragrant, being careful not to let it brown. Drain the eggplant and add to the pan. Sauté until the eggplant skin turns brown. Stir in the soy sauce mixture, and add the green onions once the sauce is thoroughly incorporated. Serve with a side of steamed rice and enjoy!
*For a 100% vegetarian version, replace the oyster sauce with mushroom sauce.