Spicy asian eggplant; photo by Angelina Aragon

Spicy Asian Eggplant

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Veg Out Issue: January 2016
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Tottie’s Asian Fusion stir-fries Japanese eggplant into an umami bomb.

Tottie Kaya likes her food spicy, but lets her customers decide their preferred heat level on most dishes, including the hot and spicy eggplant ($8.95). The chef/owner of Tottie’s Asian Fusion gives diners a choice from one (not spicy) to seven (eye-tearing and sweat-inducing). If someone orders a seven, Kaya throws Thai chilies or habaneros into the mix. “That’s how I eat my food,” she says.

While cooked in savory applications like most vegetables, the Japanese eggplant is actually a fruit and belongs to the nightshade family like its popular cousin, the tomato. The oblong fruit is available almost year round, making it a staple on Asian restaurant menus.

To prepare, Kaya stir-fries slices of purple-black Japanese eggplant in oil and adds housemade spicy garlic sauce with vinegar, soy sauce, bits of ginger, scallions, rice wine, oyster sauce and a sprinkling of sugar. Then, she spikes the dish with house-made chili oil to match the customer’s request. The peppery sauce clings to the eggplant’s thin skin and tender, velvety flesh without overpowering its earthy undertones.

Kaya finishes the plate with fresh cilantro, grated carrots and a scattering of scallions. The dish is best paired with white rice to soak up the tangy sauce, but is dandy without. If you order a spicy seven, be prepared to wash down the fiery fusion with a tall glass of your favorite beverage.

 

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