This was so good we made it two nights in a row – and very easy to create. This comes from a recipe from Sue Li in NYTimes Cooking and we made the choice of serving it on a bed of baby spinach and pad thai noodles. It could not have tasted better, but how you serve it can change in many ways – as a stand alone appetizer without the noodles or as a full blown meal on its own with the noodles.
For 2-4 people you’ll need: x2-3 Japanese eggplants (the long, thin versions), 1/4 cup sunflower (or similar) oil, x3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced into small “chip” sizes), 3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1-2 cups baby spinach, 1 package pad thai (or similar) noodles.
First, make the garlic “chips” which will act as your topping. In a heavy skillet heat the oil until shimmering. Separate and place your garlic “chips” into to oil and swirl the pan a bit to break them up and cover them with the hot oil. Cook until just brown and the bubbling stops – about 3-4 mins. With a large slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the oil and place onto a small plate lined with paper towel to drain.
Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook the pad thai noodles per the package instructions – this usually takes 5 mins or so after the water has boiled.
Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and then cut into 2″ long pieces. Using the same skillet and garlic oil add the eggplant, in batches, turning once with a pair of tongs to brown the fleshy side and allow the skins to start to break up.
Once all of the eggplant has been browned add the soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and str well. Make sure all of the eggplant get covered with the sauce and cook over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken – about 5 mins.
In a medium serving bowl, place the noodles in first, then a layer of raw baby spinach and then place the eggplant and all of the sauce over the top. “Sandwiching” the spinach between the warm noodles and the heated eggplant allows it to wilt and then it combines well.
Finally, top the whole thing with your garlic chips and serve.