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Thai Waterfall Eggplant Salad (Nam Tok)

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Thai Eggplant Salad

Thai Waterfall Eggplant Salad (a wonderful vegetables-only version of Nam Tok)

D.Schmidt for About.com
Nam Tok is a traditional Thai dish from the Northeastern part of the country. Although it's usually made with beef, this vegetarian version is just as delicious and so very satisfying. I always think of Nam Tok as a Thai version of our grilled chicken salad (only better!), with both hot (cooked) and cold (fresh) in the same dish. Roasted rice is traditionally used to add a nutty flavor, but chopped roasted peanuts or cashews works just as deliciously and is so much quicker and easier for us Westerners. Instead of roasting it as I do here, the eggplant can also be stir-fried if you prefer, and grilling it is delicious too. This dish usually has quite a lot of heat to it, but feel free to adjust the spice level according to your taste. In Thailand it is served with sticky rice on the side, which makes for a complete meal and is so very authentic it'll be sure to impress your friends. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 3-4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 3 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 4-5 cups salad greens
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts or cashews (unsalted)
  • DRESSING:
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/8 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 fresh red chili, minced OR 1/8 to 1/3 tsp. chili flakes

Preparation:

  1. Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch-thick rounds so you get the equivalent of 2 cups if you were to stack them up in a measuring cup. If your eggplant is very fat, slice the rounds into half-moons for bite-size pieces (note that eggplant will shrink somewhat during cooking). Place in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir together hoisin, brown sugar, and garlic. Spoon this over the eggplant, stirring and tossing to coat. Set eggplant in a flat baking pan single layer. Add a few Tbsp. water in and around eggplant. Roast in oven 20 minutes. Halfway through check the pan - if it has dried out, add a little more water.
  3. While eggplant is roasting, make the dressing by combining all DRESSING ingredients in a cup. Stir to dissolve sugar and set aside.
  4. In a salad bowl, combine green pepper, green onion, mint and greens. When eggplant is fully roasted (should be soft enough in the middle to easily pierce with a fork), use a spatula to remove from pan and place over the salad. Drizzle over a few Tbsp. of the dressing and gently toss, taste-testing as you go to see how much more dressing you prefer. More mint can be added if you prefer, or more chili. More lime juice should be added if it tastes too sweet to you.
  5. Portion out onto serving plates and top with chopped nuts. This dish is traditionally served with sticky rice (click here for how to make it). It's also good unto itself or alongside other dishes. ENJOY!

Other Ways to Make This Dish: For vegetarians and vegans who want a higher protein dish, medium-firm tofu can be added to the roasting pan (you may want to increase the marinade - it's great on tofu!). The eggplant is also excellent grilled (love this in the summer!), or stir-fried. Hope you enjoy it!

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