Eggplant when fried slowly becomes luxurious and soft and full of flavor. This takes time- but it is always worth it. This recipe combines the best of Thai and Vietnamese flavors. The herbs are essential . My recipe is based off this Su Li recipe from the NYT.
First make the garlic chips. I’ve made these in the microwave before which is easier but you don’t get the garlic flavored oil to fry the eggplant in. So add 1/4 cup of a neutral oil to a 10 inch non stick skillet. Add 4-5 cloves of thinly sliced garlic and simmer on low heat till they just start turning brown (they will cook further as you take them out and they burn very fast). Inevitably you will cut some garlic chips thinner and will have to triage the situation and fish those out sooner.
Next- fry up about inch size cubes of a pound of eggplant in batches. I used 2 small purple ones. I peel the eggplants but you don’t have to, especially if you have the thin skinned Japanese kind. When you start frying the eggplant- it will soak up all the oil like a sponge- which is a bit scary. Keep at it- medium heat, turn the pieces frequently, the eggplant is done when it is a beautifully caramelized brown and the oil has returned back to the pan. This takes 15-20 minutes per batch (so start with a bigger skillet). You can stop at this step and keep the fried eggplant and garlic for several hours (or even days)
If you have fried the eggpant in batches, add them all back to the pan and add the sauce. The sauce is 3 tbsp of soy sauce, 2 tbsp of light brown sugar, 1 tsp of chilli flakes and 1 tbsp of rice vine or any stronger vingegar. The sauce will become thick and gooey in a minute or two and you are done.
Top with a cup and half of herbs (I used a mixture of cilantro, parsley and mint) and the garlic chips. Serve over rice noodles or rice.