Eggplant and Thai basil are an exceptional combination, with the eggplant providing a sweet, earthy foundation for the bright, piercing flavor of the basil. My contribution evolved from the combination of quite a few eating experiences: Thai basil sprinkled on top of curries, delicious (but fat laden) eggplant dishes in various Chinese restaurants, a recipe for green beans in a pungent fermented black bean sauce in Sundays at Moosewood, and seeing thin eggplant and Thai basil together at the farmers’ market (July to October in Northern California).
This dish makes liberal use of basil and binds it to the eggplant with a spicy garlic sauce. Preparation is quick and easy.
Eggplant with Thai Basil and Garlic
4 T. soy sauce, preferably a Thai variety like Healthy Boy
2 t. sugar or other sweetener
1 T. rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
Chili paste to taste (or garnish the finished dish with Asian chili sauce)
6-8 thin Chinese or Japanese eggplants (about 6 cups once chopped)
2 T. minced garlic
1 t. cornstarch
2 T. water
1/3 cup sliced Thai basil
Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl.
Trim the ends of the eggplant, then cut in half lengthwise. Slice the halves in 1″ wide pieces, on the diagonal if you like. The last time I made this dish, I ended up with 6 cups of eggplant pieces.
Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl.
Cooking the eggplant
Heat a wok or large skillet for which you have a lid over high heat, then add some peanut oil (a tablespoon or two). Swirl the oil around, then add the garlic. Stir for about 30 second, until the garlic is just about ready to turn golden, then carefully pour in the eggplant. Stir fry for a few minutes, until the eggplant has started to soften. Pour in the sauce, mix well, then turn down the heat to medium and cover the wok or skillet. Cook for a few minutes, stirring now and then, until the eggplant is as soft as you like it. I usually add one-half of the basil after the first 2 minutes of the covered cooking to mellow its flavor a bit.
Add the cornstarch/water mixture, let it cook for a minute or so, then stir the mixture. Add the rest of the Thai basil, mix again, and serve.