It’s that time of year! Bright green, succulent stalks of asparagus are at the market again. And my Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry is the best way to showcase them. Asparagus needs a quick cooking method to really let their delicate flavor shine, so a stir read more
Cà Tím Nuong is a lovely grilled Vietnamese eggplant salad. I don’t always want to fire up the grill just for a few veggies though. By now I think you know I really hate to get a grill going outside in South Florida; I find the humid heat torturous enough! In today’s recipe, I’ve captured everything I love about the original; all of the fresh herbs, the zingy dressing, the crunchy fried shallots, and the meltingly tender eggplant without having to deal with the hassle of grilling. Plus I even threw in some zucchini for color and an extra serving of veggies! This warm eggplant salad makes a wonderful starter or side, and makes a delicious light supper for two.
Nuoc Cham Dressing
Nuoc cham is a fundamental Vietnamese sauce. It’s insanely flavorful and so easy to make. If you’re like me and you just can’t get enough of its citrusy, funky taste, make a double batch and use it for Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Bowls, Bahn Mi sandwiches, or Chicken Larb Wraps.
You can omit the fish sauce and substitute coconut aminos or soy sauce if you want to make this vegan. It will still be delicious; it will just be missing that little pop of funk.
Eggplant seems to be a love it or hate it veggie, and I’m definitely in the love it camp. I use Chinese eggplant here, you can find it at Asian grocers and frequently at farmers markets. It is long and slender, with vivid purple colors. This type of eggplant is much more tender and cooks faster than the typical globe eggplant you see in grocery stores. It’s also less seedy and bitter. You never have to peel it, salt it, or do any cooking voodoo to make it delicious.
Roasting eggplant at high heat makes it very tender. I like it to get nicely browned because the caramelization brings out its sweetness. Just wash and cut off the stem. No need to peel it. The flesh is so tender, it’s actually a benefit to keep the skin on.
Then I put the eggplant salad in a serving dish and top with fried shallots. The warm veggies, the fresh herbs, the citrusy nuoc cham, and the crunchy shallots make for a magical combination. If you’ve only ever had a warm spinach salad, now is your chance to add another warm salad to your repertoire. And if you have salad haters in the house, just don’t call it a salad. They’ll never know!
This Eggplant Salad is perfect alongside Sesame Green Beans and Stir Fried Pea Shoots for a light, healthy dinner. With a heaping bowl of Coconut Rice too, of course. 😉 Let me know what you think by commenting on and rating the recipe below, and tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- 1 pound Chinese eggplant (3 medium)
- 1 medium zucchini
- ½ large yellow onion
- 3 Tablespoons neutral oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ cup cilantro (small handful)
- ¼ cup mint (small handful)
- 1 small shallot or ½ large shallot
- 2 Tablespoons fried shallots
- 4 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1–2 Thai bird chile, minced, optional
Make the dressing:
- Combine the lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and chilis.
- Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Thinly slice the shallots and add it to the dressing. Stir to combine so the shallot rings separate.
- Set aside.
Prepare the vegetables:
- Preheat the oven to 425 and move the oven rack to the middle position.
- Wash and then trim the base of the eggplant. Cut it into thirds lengthwise. Then cut the eggplant logs in half and then into wedges. Place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Wash the zucchini well and trim the base. Cut it into thirds lengthwise. Then cut the zucchini logs in half and then into wedges. Add it to the eggplant.
- Cut the onion into thick slices and add it to the vegetables.
- Add the oil, salt, and pepper to the vegetables and toss to combine. Spread the vegetables evenly on the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. They should be fully cooked and nicely caramelized.
- If your vegetables look a little pale, you can broil them for a couple of minutes until they have better color.
- Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
- Roughly chop the cilantro and mint and add to the vegetables. Next pour the dressing over the vegetables. Gently toss to combine.
- Transfer the eggplant salad to a serving dish and garnish with the fried shallots. Serve immediately.
*You can use regular globe eggplant if you cannot find Chinese eggplant. Peel the eggplant and cut it into thick slices. Stack the slices and cut through them to create thick strips. Finally cut across the strips to create ½ inch cubes. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Keywords: eggplant, nuoc cham, vietnamese, zucchini, healthy, salads
Soboro Beef bowls are a popular family meal in Japan. Soboro refers to highly seasoned and minced protein typically served with steamed rice and veggies. Endlessly customizable, I make mine with ground beef, scrambled eggs, and snap peas. You can choose ground chicken or turkey, or even your favorite ground meat substitute. You can use brown rice or cauliflower rice, if that’s your thing. Don’t love snap peas? Throw in any veggie you do like-edamame or English peas work beautifully here as well.
The key is to keep all of the toppings small and pebble sized so it’s easy to scoop into your mouth. You can also make the components ahead of time and reheat before serving, making this ideal for all you Sunday meal prepping warriors. Soboro Beef Bowls are a fun and visually appealing meal, so let’s get started!
What is Soboro?
Soboro refers to ground meats or eggs which are cooked into small crumbled bits. And sometimes in restaurants, it’s only the seasoned protein on top of a bowl of rice. But when made at home, it’s usually a colorful medley of ground meat, egg, and veggies on top of rice. Soboro Beef, also known as as Soboro Donburi, Soboro Bento, or even Sanshoku Donburi (sanshoku means three types) features prominently in lunches, particularly for school age kids. The flavors are comforting and mild, nothing spicy or scary! Japanese people have a tradition of eating room temperature foods, so this would be packed in the morning and then eaten without re-heating at lunch time.
Onto the Prep
Snap peas are a cross between snow peas and English peas. They have a delightful crunch and natural sweetness, and are a great veggie to serve to vegetable resistant folks. While string-less varieties do exist, most snap peas have a string that needs to be removed before eating. This is a task kids can easily do.
Then I give them a quick blanch to retain their color and crunch. Just add to boiling water for two minutes, then drain and cool under running water.
And now it’s time to prepare the star of Soboro Beef. Using readily available Asian pantry staples creates a deeply savory, umami rich beef. Soy sauce adds its signature salty tang, oyster sauce brings rich complexity, mirin adds a dash of sweetness, and ginger brings a pop of peppery zing.
The meat is highly seasoned and that’s because it is served over plain rice. Often with Japanese rice bowls, there is no “sauce” on the side, so the toppings are more aggressively flavored. When you take a bite, the flavors blend with the plain rice and tastes well balanced.
When the meat is done, put it to the side in a bowl and cook the eggs.
When the eggs are cooked, it’s time to assemble the bowls! Just fill with your perfectly cooked rice, and arrange the beef, eggs, and snap peas on top.
I like to garnish with a little beni shoja. That’s a red pickled ginger that may have a more bracing flavor than you’re used to, but is very refreshing and adds a lovely burst of color. Feel free to substitute sushi pickled ginger instead.
Soboro Beef Bowls are a perfect weeknight family meal: casual and fun, and filled with appealing flavors and textures. Any leftovers can be packed for lunch! Try them and let me know what you think by rating the recipe below, and leaving a comment. We love hearing from you! And show off your Soboro Beef Bowls by tagging us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen.
For Ground Beef:
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
For Scrambled Eggs:
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 5 ounces snap peas
- 4 cups of steamed short grain rice
- 1 tablespoon beni shoga (red ginger)
- Pull the strings along the side of the snap peas down and off. Discard and set aside.
- Bring a small pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the snap peas and boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain the snap peas and cool with running water. Set the snap peas on the chopping board and slice them finely crosswise. Set aside.
- Heat a medium pan over medium high heat and add the oil. Swirl the pan to coat with oil and then place the beef in the pan. Let it cook for 2 mins without touching it and then use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into small crumbles. Continue cooking for 2-3 mins.
- Add the ginger and continue to cook for 1 minute. If your pan has a lot of oil, take a couple pieces of paper towels and wad it up into a ball. Tilt the pan and tuck the paper towel towards the bottom of the pan to absorb excess oil.
- Then add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, mirin, and sugar. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook for 3-4 mins. until the beef is thoroughly cooked and the sauce has been absorbed and the pan looks mostly dry. Transfer to a bowl.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk it with a fork or chopsticks until it’s uniformly a light yellow color. Wash and dry the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl the pan. Add the eggs and using a pair of chopsticks scramble the eggs to form little pieces. Set aside as soon as the eggs no longer look wet.
- Divide the rice into 4 separate bowls. Top with the beef, egg, and snap peas. Garnish with a little beni shoga.
- Serve hot.
*This is a very common lunch box item for school children. Instead of using bowls, use several lunch containers. It’s usually served at room temperature, but you can re-heat it if you like.
*You can also make the individual components earlier in the week and then heat them up briefly in the microwave before continuing to portion (hard cold rice is a NO!)
Keywords: soboro, rice bowls, soboro beef, asian meal prep