Chinese cold eggplant.
Done properly, it’s richly flavored firm, chilled eggplant with soy sauce paste with a hint of spiciness. Eggplant has a nutty flavor that can be coaxed out with care. If you were at the first dinner party where I tried to make this and overcooked the eggplant into mush, I apologize.
Go to your local Ethnic Mart. From the bewildering array of eggplant varieities, select the longest, skinniest Chinese eggplants. The bulbous eggplants are for Eggplant Parm, a dish in its own right, and won’t do well in this application.
I spent a winter break as a teen tromping around Derry, New Hampshire ahead of the Presidential primary as a volunteer. Without a car, I was sent off to canvass snowbound turf with a Texas catastrophe lawyer who never took off his ten-gallon hat and vanished into the next day’s sunset on the way to Logan Airport.
Even more snow was falling as I walked down Broadway when I dragged myself into Rig’ A’ Tony’s and was tipped off to order an Eggplant Parm before I wiped the condensation from my glasses. Facing a certain loss next Tuesday and a winter that even the Derry locals said was the worst they’d seen in years … I can still close my eyes and see the melty cheese. Is there anything it doesn’t improve?
I have never been able to replicate the experience since, it just hasn’t been cold enough.
If you haven’t passed out from this diversion, by now you should be home with your eggplant from the store.
Place the eggplant on a plate and steam the eggplant for about five minutes, until it is soft. If it starts to turn translucent, you’ve overdone it — order pizza.
While it’s steaming, prepare an ice water bath. You might discover that your past self has forgotten to refill the ice tray, possibly because (and I’m not making accusations) one is not the most forward-thinking person when raiding the ice tray for the fourth gin and tonic. Did you ever stop to consider that, Past Kenton, that present Kenton might not check before he puts the eggplant in the steamer that there is no ice?!
Shock the eggplant in the ice water bath (or cold water bath, if you drink too much gin), and refrigerate until chilled.
Prepare the sauce of 2 parts soy sauce paste (a thicker, sweeter form of soy sauce), 1 part soy sauce, 1 part water, some green onions, whatever amount of chili you’d like, and a splash of vinegar (black, rice also work if you forgot to buy any), and a couple drops of sesame oil. I eyeballed these quantities based on a demonstration my mother did for me, like everything else I’ve learned to cook. Mess with it until it tastes fine.
Pour over the eggplant and eat. Don’t forget to fill the ice tray.
Rig A Tony’s
38 W Broadway
Derry, NH 03038
RECOMMENDED: Finish your data entry first, then Eggplant Parm.