Chinese Eggplant Salad, An Easy Make-Ahead Menu Option
This lovely cold dish is a study in contrasts. It is sweet and sour, with a divine, slippery texture, and a mild nuttiness from the toasted sesame seeds. This “salad” makes a lovely, light meal for two on a warm summer day. Alternately, it can serve 4 to 6 people as a side dish.
I often find myself stuck in a cooking rut when it comes to salads. I focus so much on the main dish I am serving that the salad course becomes almost an afterthought.
When it’s unscripted, salad at my house is usually a simple tossed green salad with French vinaigrette. A perfectly dressed green salad can be an almost sensual experience. The contrast of textures, colors and flavors — when properly executed — can be nothing short of divine. However, even the most exquisite salad becomes dull if its served every single day.
So, I tend to flag alternative salads wherever I find them. That’s exactly how I identified this zesty dish!
As we head into summer in Johannesburg, it’s important to have a repertoire of quick, flavorful side dishes for those long, lazy days by the braai (grill). However, I believe this salad — which I like to serve at room temperature — is as well suited to packed lunches and harried weeknights as it is to long summer days. It is one of those make-ahead dishes your family is certain to ask for over and over again.
The Chinese Recipe
Believe it or not, this is a classic Chinese recipe. I’ve adapted it from the recipe for Cold Spiced Eggplant which appeared in The Chinese Cookbook. This seminal work was written by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee in 1972, and is one of my all-time favorite Chinese cookbooks. It is filled with gems drawn from Ms. Lee’s extensive experience as a renowned Chinese gourmet and Mr. Claiborne’s intimate knowledge of the culinary arts.
I hope your family enjoys this light, delicious salad as much as mine does. Bon appétit!