Eggplant seems to be a divisive vegetable. People are either passionate eggplant lovers or haters. I definitely fall in the lover category and this easy Steamed Eggplant is one of my favorites. Steaming eggplant renders the flesh really lush and tender, and then I pair 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
I love rice so much that I made it into its own category, right up there with main dishes and salads. And coconut rice is one of my favorites. It’s creamy (but vegan!), rich, with just a hint of sweetness and a welcome crunch from the coconut flakes. It smells divine, and is made with things you likely have on hand. Like a little black dress, Coconut Rice goes everywhere and with everything.
Coconut, Two Ways!
My recipe for Coconut Rice uses both coconut cream and unsweetened coconut flakes. Coconut cream is to coconut milk what heavy cream is to dairy milk. Same ingredients, higher fat content. You can conveniently buy canned coconut cream, or you can use a couple cans of full-fat coconut milk and spoon out the cream that rises to the top of the can. As a lighter alternative, you can use coconut milk, but the flavor will be lighter and less concentrated. Unlike some recipes that call for adding the coconut cream at the beginning, I wait until the end so the coconut flavor is more pronounced.
I start by toasting the coconut flakes. Keep a close eye as they can go from perfectly golden to burnt in seconds. Want to use up the bag of coconut all at once? Toast it all off and save some to make Palitaw-you won’t regret it! If you want more texture, you could use larger shaved coconut or even one of the crunchy coconut snacks-just break it up a little.
I always reach for jasmine when making Coconut Rice. Its nutty aroma pairs beautifully with the coconut flavors, and jasmine rice grains stay separate and fluffy. You can choose any long grain rice for this, but no matter what you use, be sure to rinse it! (For a full dissertation on why rinsing rice is so important, read my earlier post about making perfect rice, every time.)
At this point I like to let the rice rest 15-30 minutes. That helps it to cook more evenly. If you are pressed for time, you can skip this step.
At this point the rice should look shiny and be mostly cooked through. It will be al dente, meaning firm, but should not have a core. Take a taste and if it’s still too hard, add a little water and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the Coconut Cream Later
Although many recipes have you mix in the coconut milk at the beginning of the recipe, I think that is a mistake. Between the thick coconut cream and the sugar, the rice often scorches at the bottom, but is undercooked towards the top. Moreover, rice needs even moist heat to cook properly and adding the coconut cream at the beginning keeps the rice from absorbing water by coating it with an oily film. Finally, by adding the cream in later, you keep the rich flavor intact without cooking it out.
Once your rice is done, it’s always a good idea to let it sit for a few minutes, which helps it absorb any remaining moisture. Then scoop onto a platter and garnish with the scallions and toasted coconut.
Try it as the base for your favorite grain bowl, or as a side for Chicken Adobo. There’s honestly nothing that Coconut Rice doesn’t complement. I know you’re going to love this recipe; the incredible aroma and toasty coconut will make this a family favorite. Please take a moment to rate and comment on the recipe below, we love hearing from you. And let us see your creations by tagging us @funkyasiankitchen.
- 2 cups jasmine or long grain white rice
- ¾ cup coconut cream
- 2 cups water
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon chopped scallions
- Preheat the oven to 275. Place the coconut on a small baking sheet and spread it out so you have an even layer. Bake it for about 3-5 minutes until it is a nice golden color.
- Set the coconut aside to cool.
- Put the rice in a bowl and rinse it a couple of times with water to remove any excess starch. Put the rice in a heavy duty saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Add the water, sugar, and salt. Stir the rice to dissolve the sugar.
- If you have time, let the rice sit for 15-30 mins to let it start absorbing the water, which will help it cook more evenly.
- Bring the pot to a simmer over medium high heat (it takes about 3 minutes), stirring once or twice with a spatula or wooden spoon, to keep the rice from scorching at the bottom. Lower the heat to medium low, stir the rice once more, cover with a lid, and cook for 12 mins.
- Check the rice. At this point the rice will be al dente, cooked but still firm. The rice grains should look shiny and will have lost their chalky dull look. If you’re not sure, take a fork and try a small taste. If it still has a bit of a core, add 2-3 more tablespoons of water and cook, covered, on medium low for 5 extra mins.
- Then add the coconut cream, stir the rice once more, cover the pot again, lower the heat to low, and cook the rice for another 5 mins.
- Turn off the heat and let the rice sit covered in the pan for another 5 mins.
- Scoop the rice onto a platter. Top the rice with scallions and coconut and serve.
Keywords: coconut rice, coconut, asian sides