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Tender and luscious: no other eggplant compares to this | Food

I’m a little miffed that the only eggplant emoji is purple. I guess it’s understandable as Japan is where emojis originated, and they don’t have long green eggplants over there. I won’t even go into what the kids are using purple eggplant emoji for these days.

Moving on, there are only two cultivated varieties of long green eggplants – the Louisiana Green is banana shaped, but the Thai long green silken is in my humble opinion peerless in all the Solanum melongena realm.

Unlike an apple eggplant, it’s not bitter. It is a lot less seedy and more applicable across the board – don’t get me wrong, apple eggplants and pea eggplants are the eggplants of choice when my longing for green curry starts to stir.

However, the Thai long green silken eggplant embodies everything you want from an eggplant and then some. It’s still not a well-known variety, but in Australia during summer, you will spot it at many Asian grocers. It is often grown by home gardeners and brought in to sell.

Eggplants are at their peak now, so go forth and buy one – heck buy three. Better yet, make like the gardeners supplying those grocers and grow a couple of plants. Seeds for these can be found easily enough on Australian heirloom seed websites, or from mail order catalogues such as the Diggers Club.

Most eggplant varieties will cook down and reduce in volume – they’re approximately 92% water. But not so the long green ones! The perform very well in drought conditions too.

If you grill them they will retain much of their structure and leave you not with a tasteless, spongy meaty thing that needs a sauce or flavouring to make them sing. Instead, they’ll turn into a vegetable so tender and luscious you won’t be able to bring yourself to buy or grow any other eggplants ever again.

They are a one-stop shop eggplant. They can be cooked any way, in any cuisine and they will delight even the most sceptical eggplant consumer.

Sliced and dipped in a beaten egg batter, fried and salted is possibly the easiest and most gratifying way. I’ve made it for countless fellow chefs and all asked me what I did to make them taste better than any fried chicken they’d had. Yes, they’re that good, even without the nahm prik chilli relishes that they are commonly served with in Thai cuisine. They’re a crowd pleaser. My kids greedily consume them as fast as I can fry them and they’re healthier and more satisfying than a doughnut too.

I’ve also used them grilled (peeled and used in dips and salads), stir fried (recipe below), roasted (dengaku style), stuffed (with meat and baked, delicious!), in stews (ratatouille), curries (Thai, Indian, Sri Lankan anyone?) and soups (lovely in a miso soup).

You won’t need any fiddly acidulated water, as long green eggplants won’t oxidise the moment you slice them. And because of their shape and size, they require minimal cooking time. Plus, they can be cut to fit a baking dish for eggplant parmigiana perfectly.

My friend, the very clever chef Josh Lewis of the infamous Fleet in Brunswick, has been using this eggplant ingenuously. He slowly cooks it with chicken fat in the dreamiest pairing with chargrilled local mackerel, finished off with a roasted fish bone broth.

My favourite Thai dishes of the entire cookery canon involve this eggplant. One is the Isaan salad/chilli relish dtum makheua, made by first chargrilling eggplants, long green chillies, shallots and garlic over coals until they’re blackened, slipping the skins off when it is cool, then pounding them in a mortar pestle until they are a lovely sludgy paste – at which point you season them with bpla raa – a fermented fish sauce with lime juice, then finish it off with fresh soft herbs such as coriander, sawtooth herb and Vietnamese mint. Eaten with a soft-boiled egg and freshly made pork crackling it is probably my death row meal.

Thai cooking savant Andy Ricker of Pok Pok in Portland agrees – he’s green with envy that we in Australia have access to this eggplant to use in our restaurants and at home. So get cooking.

Stir fried eggplant and Thai basil in yellow bean sauce

Serves Two

3tbs olive oil
2 medium sized Thai long green silken eggplants
, sliced on an angle
5 cloves of garlic
, minced
2 tbs fermented yellow bean sauce
2 tbs fermented chilli sauce
1.5tbs dark soy sauce
1tbs coconut nectar
1 long red chilli
, sliced thinly on an angle
2 spring onions
, sliced thinly on an angle
6 stalks of Thai basil
, picked

Prepare all your ingredients and have them all on hand, as everything will cook very fast.

Heat your wok on the highest element for a good minute or so, add the olive oil and wait until the oil starts to ripple a little.

At the same time, add the garlic and eggplant slices, agitating the wok constantly so the garlic does not burn.

When the eggplant starts to brown add the coconut nectar, dark soy, fermented chilli and fermented yellow bean sauces.

Keep agitating the wok and move the contents of the wok around with a spatula.

When the eggplant has thoroughly cooked and the sauces are equally covering the surface of the eggplant, turn the heat off and add the spring onion, long red chilli and Thai basil.

Eat straight away!

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