3-4Japanese eggplant (about 900gm), rinsed and stalks removed (see note)1 tbsproasted sesame seeds, or to taste (see note)1/3 cup(firmly packed) coriander leaves, coarsely chopped1 tbspfinely chopped garlic chives Roasted sesame dressing2 tbspsesame oil2 tbsplight soy sauce1 tbsprice vinegar1 tbspShaoxing wine1 tbsproasted sesame paste (see note)1 tspwhite sugar1 tspchilli oil, or to taste1large garlic clove, finely minced
Place eggplant in a single layer in a bamboo steamer basket over a saucepan or wok of boiling water and steam until limp and wrinkled (15-20 minutes). Cool and cut into chunks and chill or keep at room temperature.
For roasted sesame dressing, combine ingredients in a bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Just before serving, pour dressing over eggplant, toss lightly to coat, scatter with sesame seeds, coriander and garlic chives and serve immediately.
Note If using Mediterranean eggplant, halve lengthways, sprinkle cut-side lightly with salt and stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry using absorbent paper before steaming. Roasted sesame seeds are available from Asian grocers. Alternatively, you can dry-roast sesame seeds in a pan until light golden. Roasted sesame paste is a Chinese-style sesame paste that is available from Asian grocers.
This fabulous cold salad is often eaten during the stifling hot summer months in north China. But it’s so delicious that it is also perfect as a winter starter. Traditionally, the eggplant is steamed and served with a piquant roasted sesame sauce, but sometimes I’ve roasted it for that smoky flavour. I’ve seen this salad presented in chunks, in strips or puréed. I prefer the slender Japanese eggplants but the common Mediterranean variety is also good. — Tony Tan