A technique often used in Chinese preparations of eggplant, steaming doesn’t bring out the toasty flavor that roasting or sauteing will. Still, it yields a silky foundation, which you can spice up in a myriad of ways. Eggplant’s steamed flesh soaks up flavors when added to a stir-fry or made into a salad. Steaming it is simple; keep leftovers in the refrigerator to flavor for a quick meal in itself or side dish any night of the week.
Any type of eggplant is suitable for steaming. The classic plump globe varieties may be a bit bitter, so salting them — even before steaming — could help purge any unpleasantness. To salt them, peel and halve, cube or slice the eggplant. Place the flesh into a colander and mix liberally with coarse salt. Allow the eggplant to sit for an hour and then rinse thoroughly before proceeding with steaming.
Thinner Japanese and Chinese eggplant tends to be sweeter and don’t typically need to be put through a salting process.
Place some water in pot or pan and bring to a boil. Insert a metal steamer basket or set a bamboo steamer on top of the pot. Note that the steamer should not be immersed in the water, but sit above it.
Cut the ends off and slice the eggplants in half, leaving them unpeeled if choosing not to salt them.
When the water is boiling and producing steam, place the eggplants in the steamer with the cut side facing up — if unpeeled. Cover and cook for approximately 10 minutes.
Test for doneness by squeezing the sides gently with your fingers. The eggplants should feel soft and pliable. If the interior of the flesh is still pale and spongy, give them a little more time to steam.
Remove the finished eggplant from the steamer and place into a colander to cool, or to rest until you’re ready to work them into your recipe. If you’ve steamed an unpeeled eggplant, scoop the steamed flesh out of the peel and chop. If you’ve steamed chopped or diced eggplant — it’s all ready for your meal.
The skin of thin Japanese and Chinese eggplant is quite tender, so you may not need to peel it before or after steaming.
Dress steamed eggplant, while warm, with a blend of lemon juice, fresh basil, spring onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh mint and chillies. Serve immediately or allow to marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.
- Alternatively, dress with a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, minced garlic, tahini and chili oil.
- Sesame oil, soy sauce and lime juice make another delicious dressing base for a cold, steamed eggplant salad.
Using steamed, as opposed to raw, eggplant in a stir-fry dish prevents it from soaking up as much oil.