This flavor-packed pan-fried eggplant recipe is inspired by Chinese and Japanese flavors. Serve hot or at room temperature, over rice or as a side dish.
One of the vegetables I get the most questions about is eggplant (a.k.a. aubergine to my friends across the pond). And I totally get the confusion. Unlike, say, potatoes, cooking with eggplant is not very intuitive. But luckily, it’s also not rocket science. In my experience, the easiest way to cook eggplant is in a pan on the stovetop.
This flavor-packed pan-fried eggplant is inspired by dishes I’ve had in Chinese and Japanese restaurants. (Unlike many other eggplant recipes out there, this one has no breading.)
It has a creamy texture, caramelized flavor, and gets coated in a savory-salty soy glaze with garlic, ginger, and red onion; crushed peanuts and cilantro crown the top. It’s so good and rich, you may actually be temped to eat the whole skillet’s worth by yourself (been there, done that…).
What’s In This Pan-Fried Eggplant
This dish consists of eggplant that get deeply browned in a skillet, then removed. In that same pan, you then quickly sauté red onions, garlic, ginger, and chili flakes, and turn them into a glaze by adding soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Finally, you return the eggplant to the pan and toss it in the glaze. The dish gets garnished with crushed peanuts and cilantro.
Pan-Fried Eggplant: Step-by-Step
Salt the Eggplant: Cut the eggplant into chunks and place in a colander, sprinkling each layer generously with salt. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes (this helps tame the eggplant’s bitterness – more details below). When the eggplant looks sweaty, transfer it to a kitchen towel and pat dry.
Sear the Eggplant: Working in two batches, cook the eggplant in a single layer over medium heat until deeply golden. To prevent it from turning out greasy – and to speed up the softening process – cover the skillet with a lid while searing. Resist the urge to move/flip the eggplant more than necessary, as it is prolonged contact with the hot pan that will give you that delicious caramelization. Remove all the eggplant from the pan and set aside.
Glaze the Eggplant: Cook the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili flakes in that same skillet for just a few minutes, then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Finally, add all the eggplant back in, toss to coat it in the glaze, and turn the heat off. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and cilantro before serving.
Why You Should Salt Eggplant
Eggplant naturally contains a lot of moisture and some bitterness. Salting it and setting it aside for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking helps combat both of these issues. The salt makes the eggplant “sweat out” (literally) the excess moisture and bitter flavor. However, if you use Japanese eggplants (the long and skinny ones), you can skip the salting step.
To Peel or Not To Peel
One of the pain points of cooking eggplant is deciding whether or not to peel it. The short answer: leave the skin on.
The longer answer: it depends. If your eggplants are small, their skin is probably tender. But if they’re on the larger side, while the skin remains edible, it may have a tougher texture. It also depends on the recipe. If you plan to eat it in chunks or slices, leave the skin on. But for other uses (like this eggplant “caviar”), eggplants can be roasted whole, then peeled, and pureed.
The most important reason to leave the skin on is to preserve nutrients. Like with many fruits and vegetables, most of eggplant’s nutritional value is in its skin. Aside from being high in fiber (like all plants), eggplants have antimutagenic (anti-cancer), antimicrobial, and antiviral properties.
How to Serve This Pan-Fried Eggplant
What I love about this dish is that you can serve it hot, at room temperature, or cold. It’s absolutely delicious in every way. Have it over fluffy rice or soba noodles for a complete meal, or serve as a side.
More eggplant recipes…
- Vegan Eggplant Lasagna Stacks
- Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Romesco Sauce
- Ottolenghi-Inspired Eggplant with Tahini and Almonds
- Vegan Shakshuka with Eggplant and Tofu
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
This flavor-packed pan-fried eggplant recipe is inspired by Chinese and Japanese flavors. Serve hot or at room temp.
- 3 small eggplants (about 1 1/4 pounds), ends trimmed
- About 3 tablespoons neutral-tasting cooking oil, like avocado, organic canola, or refined coconut
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced* (see note below)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
- About 1/4 cup crushed peanuts, for serving*
- Fresh cilantro, basil, or scallions, for serving
- Cut the eggplants into 2-inch chunks. Place a layer of eggplant into a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Continue layering and salting each layer. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.
- When the eggplant looks sweaty, transfer it to a kitchen towel and pat dry.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Arrange half of the eggplant in a single layer in the skillet and cover tightly with a lid. Cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and brown the other side. Remove from the skillet and cook the second batch, adding more oil as needed. Remove all the eggplant and set aside.
- Add more oil to the skillet if needed. Add the onion and cook until it’s slightly softened and browned, about 2 minutes. Then add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons each vinegar and sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon fish sauce (if using). Add the eggplant back in and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.
- You can sub with white onion or shallots.
- You can sub peanuts with roasted cashews. If you’re allergic to nuts, garnish with toasted sesame seeds instead.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 170
- Carbohydrates: 9.7 g
- Fiber: 5.5 g
- Protein: 3.1 g
Keywords: eggplant, chinese, japanese, ginger, red onion