Lake Isle Press

Fried Ginger Eggplant

A spicy, crispy treat inspired by Nepalese street food.

Fried Ginger Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 2 large Japanese or Chinese eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 fresh green chile (such as serrano), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • Pinch of asafetida (use ground asafetida, often found in South African groceries. It has a strong, garlic-like flavor.)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Nepalese Tomato Chutney (see chutney recipe), for serving

Directions

When traveling in Nepal, you frequently come across food carts strung along the roadsides. People line up for snacks like this fried eggplant rolled up in newspapers or served in small bowls made of compressed, dried leaves.

The spicy chickpea flour batter is easy to prepare, and it can be kept in the refrigerator for several days and used as needed. Just about any vegetable can be fried in this batter, but one of my favorite treats is frying battered slices of bread. My sister Radhika loves it and always checks my refrigerator when she comes to visit to see if I have any of the batter lying around.

The batter tends to thicken as it sits, so thin it by adding a few tablespoons of water to bring it back to the correct consistency.

Steps:
Trim the eggplants and slice them 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal. Transfer to a nonreactive (glass or stainless-steel) bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, the turmeric, and cayenne. Using your hands, mix to evenly coat them. Let rest for at least 15 minutes.

Using a mortar and pestle or mini food processor, grind the ginger, garlic, and chile to a fine paste. Add a tablespoon of water if necessary.

In a bowl, combine the chickpea flour, asafetida, cilantro, a pinch of salt, and the ginger past and gradually add the water. Use a wooden spoon to mix it to a smooth mixture of pancake batter consistency.

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat at least 3 inches of oil in a deep, heavy pot to 350°F. Gently dip the eggplant slices into batter a few at a time, coating them with a thin layer of the batter. Fry until crisp, turning with a slotted spoon to ensure even cooking.

Remove with a skimmer or slotted spoon and drain the excess oil on the paper towels. Serve hot with tomato chutney.

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