Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Marinated Aubergine Thai-Style Salad

Last week Thailand kindly gave us all a day off work for a Buddhist festival. I spent the day on a culinary exploration of Bangkok. I started with an early lunch in a part of town near the river called Bang Rak which is becoming renowned for its street food. I followed a CNN street food guide and ate my way around the different recommendations. By a little after midday I’d put away a plate of ‘volcanic mussels’ (mussels fried in a gloopy pancake with chilli sauce), roasted duck and rice, some mango with sticky rice, and washed down with a coconut and a bottle of freshly-squeezed orange juice.

I decided to walk off my morning gluttony with a walk around the enormous fresh market at Nothaburi, a river taxi ride away. It’s a beautiful fresh market and a foodie’s paradise. But I’ll be honest, some of it really tested the parameters of my culinary open-mindedness. The meat stalls included every last part of the pig – entrails, ears, trotters. At the fish stall there were huge catfish flapping about in protest and eels squirming in buckets. At the random creatures stall there were terrapins trying to escape from tubs, and the least appetising of all were the frogs, some still alive and hopping about in a bag, others laid out flat on their backs with their innards on display. I toyed with posting some pictures but decided it would be in poor taste on a vegetarian recipe page.

The day left me craving ingredients which had never swum, walked, or hopped, so a vegan dinner it was.As a former veggie I have learned that the trick to making carnivores enjoy vegetarian food is to treat part of the dish as you would a protein – make it hearty, tasty and chunky. In this case, the aubergine is marinated in the same way I marinated the chicken in my marinated chicken recipe. The other salad ingredients are packed with texture and colour and the dressing is has a powerful flavour. Even my extremely carnivorous husband asked for more and didn’t, as I’d feared, head out afterwards in search of fried chicken.

Time: 1hr (including marinating and cooking time)
Rating: Super easy
Serves: 2 people as a main, 4 as a starter


For the marinated aubergines:
1 medium Aubergine (mine weighed 270g)
2tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp clear honey
1 tsp balsamic

For the salad:
1 avocado
1/3 of a cucumber (about 150g)
Handful of rocket leaves
100g cherry tomatoes
100g sugar snap peas
40g cashew nuts
Small bunch mint leaves
Small bunch coriander leaves
Small handful bean sprouts

For the dressing:
Juice 1 lime
2 small red chillis (a spicy variety like birdseye)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar if you don’t have it)
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp sugar
2cm knob ginger
1 stick of lemongrass


  1. Mix together all the marinade ingredients
  2. Cut the aubergine into medium-sized chunks and cover with the marinade
  3. Refrigerate for 20mins at least, mixing half way through.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  5. Place the aubergines in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the aubergine chunks are soft all the way through but not burnt.
  6. Next prepare the dressing. Very finely chop the chillis (including seeds), lemongrass, garlic and ginger – take time to do this thoroughly as large pieces in the dressing will be unpleasant. Put the chopped ingredients in a jar and add the remaining salad dressing ingredients. Shake well and set aside.
  7. Then prepare the other salad ingredients. Put the cashews on a baking tray and place in the oven for five minutes until brown, shaking half way through. Take out, allow to cool and chop or break the nuts in half.
  8. Trim the sugar snap peas and blanch them in boiling water for about a minute to soften slightly. Drain and run under a cold tap. Slice them in half widthways diagonally and put in a salad bowl.
  9. Peel and deseed the cucumber and cut into small chunks. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and cut the avocado into small chunks. Add all of these to the sugar snap peas.
  10. When the aubergines are cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool for about ten minutes.
  11. Coarsely tear the mint and coriander leaves and add them along with the remaining salad ingredients.
  12. Add the cooled aubergines, pour over the dressing and serve.

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