Recreate amazing fried eggplant
March 20, 2020 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Last time I was in NYC I went to Ivan Ramen and had THE BEST eggplant of my life. The menu just lists it as “crispy eggplant - Japanese eggplant, tahini, charred garlic.” It was bite-sized pieces of perfectly crisp yet melty eggplant and I want to recreate it. I have a regular eggplant, tahini, and garlic. How do I fry the eggplant to approximate the crispy amazingness of this dish?
posted by tatiana wishbone to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not aware of the particulars of this exact eggplant- but in general in order to get crisp eggplant you must salt the pieces first and let them exude moisture for a while before the rest of the procedure- whatever that may be. Salting first and letting them de-water is always the first step!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:39 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]

There's a similar Israeli recipe that involves roasting a whole eggplant so the exterior is crisp (sometimes even charred or burned) and the interior is melty soft. You slice it open and put tahini on it and it's amazeballs. Google "whole roasted eggplant with tahini" or add charred/burned in there for recipes.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:54 PM on March 20

The only way I'll eat eggplant is fried - and they turn out exactly the way you describe. Crispy skin with melty, creamy eggplant flesh. Once I fry it, I usually incorporate it into sauce-based dishes with tahini or coconut milk, etc.

It's pretty basic - you dice the eggplant into small-ish cubes or strips (bigger pieces tend to hold more moisture.) Toss in salt, and arrange in a single layer on a paper towel, or put the pieces in a sieve and pat dry after ~20 minutes. I use a deep fryer, but you don't need one - fill a deep pot with a few inches of oil and heat until hot enough to fry the eggplant to golden brown. Deep frying rules apply - not overcrowding the pan, etc.

You could roast the eggplant too, but I find that the texture is never as good as deep fried eggplant.
posted by Everydayville at 4:01 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

We've tried so many ways to make eggplant, and the winner in terms is texture, flavour AND ease is:
Microwave whole eggplant for a few minutes (until soft)
Cut into coins about 1" thick
Pan fry (with very little oil) over medium heat until the exterior is how you like it.

Salt not needed this method, but needed if you don't use the microwave.

Tahini and garlic go in a sauce (which sometimes has other spices) that is poured over top. Tahini sauce gets used a lot in our house.

Eggplant can be done in the oven but takes forever and results are not as reliable.

Good eggplant vs not so good is just like ripe avocado vs unripe. So very different!
posted by Acari at 4:36 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]

I do want to warn you that I find the flavor difference between Japanese vs regular eggplant very noticeable and very much prefer Japanese (to the point where I really don't like eggplant generally but really do like and get excited about the Japanese type). So no matter how closely you replicate the cooking method you may feel there's just something not quite right if you aren't using a Japanese eggplant.
posted by potrzebie at 5:04 PM on March 20 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I want to second portrzebie here. If whatever you try doesn't work out, it probably is the eggplant variety. If you can find a Japanese, Chinese, or Vietnamese market in your area, you may be able to find a similar eggplant. They'll be small and narrow compared to typical globe eggplants. In my experience they're just naturally more custardy and less astringent.
posted by wintersweet at 8:12 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I have made something like that, but I can't find the recipe among my bookmarks. I could find this: Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, which two has techniques for getting that crispy but soft eggplant. Maybe I used that and then made a tahini sauce to go with it? I don't remember. I've used the linked recipe more than once because it is delicious.
When I was looking for the recipe I used, I found this, which also looks good: Miso Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Dressing

I'm letting the above stand, but after I wrote it, I remembered I could google an image of the Ivan Ramen version, and looking at that what I thought was that it was maybe sort of a Japanese-Israeli fusion thing. So maybe look at this for inspiration, and then cut the eggplant into cubes rather than slices (because chopsticks) and season and garnish in a more Japanese manner.
posted by mumimor at 8:37 AM on March 22

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