One of the wonderful things about
eggplants is that they can be placed in the flames of a fire, or over hot
charcoal, or directly over the gas flame of a stove, and still taste
great. This way of smoking or roasting them has its roots in North Africa,
the Middle East, India and across South East Asia, producing infinite
variations of delicious dips, purees and salads. This Vietnamese version
is served as a side salad to meat and poultry dishes.
Groundnut (peanut) or vegetable oil
Spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
Red Serrano chilies, seeded and finely sliced
Fresh basil leaves
Roasted peanuts, crushed
Nuoc cham, to serve
Place the eggplant over a barbecue or
under a hot grill (broiler), or directly on to a gas flame and, turning
them from time to time, cook until soft when pressed.
Carefully lift them by the stalk and put
them into a plastic bag to sweat for one minute.
Holding the eggplant by the stalk once
again, carefully peel off the skin under cold running water. Gently
squeeze the excess water from the peeled flesh, remove the stalk and
pull the flesh apart in long strips. Place these strips in a serving
Heat the oil in a small pan and quickly
stir in the spring onions. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the
chilies, nuoc mam, basil leaves and a little salt to taste.
Pour this dressing over the eggplants,
toss gently and sprinkle the peanuts over the top.
Serve at room temperature and, for those
who like a little extra fire, splash on some nuoc cham.