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