One of the vegetables that unexpectedly threw me for a loop when I first started using local produce was eggplant. I’ve cooked dozens of batches of eggplant parmesan in the past, but that was with the large, pear-shaped American variety. I was surprised when one day I got some long, skinny eggplants in my CSA box. I was like, okay… did someone forget to water these… I guess I can make eggplant parm with this… And I did, and it was good! I have since, however, smartened up in the eggplant department.
Aubergine, also known as eggplant, is actually considered a fruit. Like tomatoes, they are part of the nightshade family, and were once thought to be poisonous. In reality, the fruit is perfectly healthy to eat, but I don’t recommend making a salad out of the leaves which contain solanine. When consumed in large quantities eggplant leaves can have some pretty nasty gastrointestinal and neurologic effects. The fruit itself contains a number of vitamins and minerals, as well as phytochemicals, so, by all means, eat your eggplant with reckless abandon! One fun fact about eggplant – it contains nicotine, but in such small quantities you would have to eat approximately 20 pounds to get the same amount of nicotine found in one cigarette. That being said, it shows little promise as a healthy alternative to smoking.
There are a few dozen varieties of eggplant that originate from all different corners of the globe and they come in a plethora of shapes and colors and also a host of cooking traditions and tasty possibilities. Italy has its eggplant parmesan, France has its ratatouille, Greece has its moussaka, the Middle East has its baba ganoush, and Thailand has its curried Thai eggplant. For today’s recipe I used the long, thin, purple Japanese variety of eggplant that first threw me for a loop a few years back. When compared to the eggplant at most US grocery stores, it has a thinner skin and a sweeter, more mellow flesh. It’s perfect for making a stir fry out of because when sliced, it’s easy to pop in your mouth, and the sponge-like quality of eggplant absorbs the stir fry sauce, making for hearty pops of flavor.
This dish includes tofu for some added dinnertime protein. The secret to great tofu is pressing some of the moisture out of it before adding it to the pan so that it browns. I placed mine between two absorbent paper towels, and then pressed it with a medium-sized saucepan filled with something heavy for an hour before cooking. If you’re not a tofu fanatic, this dish is also delicious with sautéed, cubed chicken breast.
After an hour the paper towels are saturated and the tofu is ready to go.
I added a chili pepper to my pan throughout the cooking process. If you look closely you’ll see that the end is cut off. I did this so that some of the capsaicin could escape, which gently warmed the dish and kept it within acceptable spicy limits for our entire family. If you want to spice things up, you can sauté the vegetables with a finely-chopped chili pepper, including more or less seeds depending on how crazy you want it to get. But seriously, be careful and always wear gloves while cutting hot peppers!
- 1 lb Japanese eggplant cut into ¼" medallions
- 1 lb extra firm tofu
- 1 C coarsely chopped green peppers
- 1 C coarsely chopped white onion
- 1 chili pepper with ⅛" cut off of the bottom
- ½ C water
- 2 Tbsp tamari
- 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh or frozen ginger, minced
- 3 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp peanut oil, evenly divided
- 1 8 oz can drained chopped water chestnuts
- An hour before starting to cook, drain your tofu and place it on a plate between two super absorbent paper towels, and then place a medium saucepan on top of it. Next, fill the saucepan with something heavy. This will press much of the moisture out of the tofu so that it browns well.
- Cube the tofu into bite-sized pieces and prep your vegetables.
- In a wok or a large pan, heat ½ Tbsp peanut oil over medium heat for two minutes, and then add the tofu to the pan. Cook until the underside is browned (about 3 minutes), and then flip and cook the opposite side until it is also browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining ½ Tbsp peanut oil to the pan and heat. Next, add the eggplant, green peppers, white onions, and chili pepper to the pan. Sauté until the eggplant begins to soften, but doesn't get mushy. This will take approximately 5 minutes.
- While the vegetables are sautéing prep your stir fry sauce by whisking together water, tamari, low-sodium soy sauce, garlic, ginger, light brown sugar, and cornstarch in a small mixing bowl. Make sure there are no cornstarch clumps, otherwise it won't thicken correctly.
- Once the eggplant has finished cooking, add the water chestnuts and the simmer sauce to the pan. Cook until the water chestnuts are heated through and the sauce is simmering and thickened.
- Serve immediately.
The eggplant in that (at least I think it’s the eggplant) looks absolutely divine! The sauce looks lovely too – I wouldn’t mind having this!
Thanks Sarah. It’s eggplant, just of the Japanese variety. When they’re sliced they’re bite sized and perfect for using in a stir fry!
Erin @ Platings and Pairings says
Ooohhh – Perfect timing! I’ve seen a lot of these showing up at the farmer’s market lately and this looks like the PERFECT use for them. Thanks so much for sharing! Pinned!
Thanks for pinning! I just love all of the unusual vegetables to be found at local farmer’s markets!
Laura @MotherWouldKnow says
I love Japanese eggplant – although I haven’t seen it in my CSA, I grab it whenever it shows up at the grocery or the farmers’ market. Your bowl of vegetables makes me want to grab my wok and get to work right now!
Haha! Thanks Laura. I guess that’s part of the fun of CSAs. They’re always changing-up the produce varieties and you never really know what will be available from one season to the next until the season happens!
Melanie @ Nutritious Eats says
Eggplant is my favorite in a stir fry! This looks delish. Pinning!
A girl can never go wrong with a stir fry, and thanks for pinning!
Tracy @ Served From Scratch says
Mmmm stir fry is like it’s own other food group to me. I love it so much – this recipe included! It looks so yummy!
All things stir fry is one of my favorite go tos when I want an amazing tasting meal that doesn’t take much effort!
mmmm…my mouth is watering looking at this! I love eggplant and this recipe looks so yummy!
Eggplant is one of those vegetables that’s totally underrated. Thanks for the compliments!
Claudia ! Gourmet Project says
Thanks Rachel, I so needed an eggplant recipe… and this looks WOW!
Claudia, I’m happy the timing was right for you on this one!
Rachel @ athletic avocado says
This reminds me of a spicy eggplant dish that I get at a local asian restaurant, except this is probably way healthier and tastier!
Yup… no MSG in this one!
Shelby | Diabetic Foodie says
I never really liked eggplant until I discovered the Asian varieties via a CSA. Long live CSAs!
Yeah for CSAs!
Really nice job on the stir fry. Where I come from stir fry is so very popular and this looks delicious and healthy. Cheers….Mark
Well, it sounds like your quite the stir fry expert, so an extra big thanks for the compliment!
Patti @ CooksRecipeCollection.com says
Love the combination. Thanks for sharing.
love stir fry..Just need that bowl to finish off my dinner..
Stir fry is the best!
Love this!! what a gorgeous dish and great use of eggplants! I think i know what to do wth the four sitting in my fridge 🙂
If you end up making this dish, let me know how it turns out!
Meg @ NomingthruLife says
I LOVE Asian dishes, probably because of the umami and the strength of flavor they usually have. Your dish looks wonderful too. And I’m a huge fan of water chestnuts and the crunch they give, so this one is definitely going to have to make it to my table soon 🙂
I originally made this without the water chestnuts and something was missing. Adding the water chestnuts tied the dish together. Just needed that crunch!
Ashley | Spoonful of Flavor says
I am always looking for new recipes that use eggplant because I always have it in my garden this time of the year. I love the Asian flavors and other veggies. This dish looks perfect for dinner!
Thanks Ashley! The idea of picking eggplant and cooking them right away sounds amazing, because they have a shorter shelf life. I got mine from my CSA and was sure to cook them the next day. If you end up making this dish, let me know how it turns out!
Sara | Belly Rumbles says
You’re hilarious, did somebody forget to wash these!! I prefer eggplant cooked this way, in a starry, love how it soaks up all the flavours. I am a big one on pressing tofu too before using it. Bit of a tofu fan as well, therefore, loving this dish!
Thanks Sara! My grandparents, who worked in China for a few years, introduced me to tofu when I was a little kid, and I’ve been hooked since!
Lisa @ Healthy Nibbles & Bits says
It’s funny, I grew up on Asian eggplant and I remember I was so thrown off by the Italian version! Eggplant stir fries are definitely one of my favorite dishes. This looks beautiful!
That is pretty funny! It’s all about perspective I guess.
wonderful vegan food just made for my daughter and her children. Easy to prepare and delicious sauce.
Lesley, I’m so happy to hear that this turned out well for your family. It’s so much fun hearing about when someone has enjoyed one of my recipes!
So happy to have found this recipe. Ironically enough, I found it because I was looking for something to do with the Japanese eggplant in this week’s CSA box. I’d never heard of them before! This recipe looks perfect because my box has the eggplant, green peppers, and onions. Clearly meant to be. I don’t have water chestnuts, thinking maybe some chopped nuts or cashews may work for a nice crunch?
Elizabeth! I’m so happy to hear that this recipe helped to solve your CSA box conundrum! I think the cashew would be a good crunch replacement in this recipe. Their flavor will pair great with the sauce and the eggplant. I have a number of recipes on this blog that use some of the more unusual CSA vegetables. As such, I hope you find Simple Seasonal to be of help again in the future!