Last week, I cooked a leftover dish of adobo garlic rice but I felt we needed a hefty side vegetable dish. So I quickly did this cold salad as a perfect pairing. My family couldn’t resist. It was a soft blend of eggplants roasted to a nutty flavor, afterwards peeled, then mashed with onions and minced garlic.
For this Filipino Ensaladang Talong (eggplant salad) I used a recipe I found in a cookbook purchased from foodie friends and cabalen Claude Tayag and wife Mary Ann Quioc (‘cabalen’ in the Pampango dialect translates to town mate or someone from the same region). I make this often because this recipe has a unique dressing made of coconut cream, vinegar, garlic, ginger, scallions. When you boil it quickly, the ivory-colored thick creamy coconut milk glistens and has a sweet-gingery aroma that makes the salad just magical. Pour the coconut vinaigrette into the eggplant mash, then swirl it around and you’ll see what I mean.
Mom used to prepare this Ensaladang Talong often as an accompaniment to a beef pochero dish for our family Sunday suppers. The eggplants’ tangy, garlicky zesty flavors were a great contrast to the savory dishes typical in Filipino cuisine. How I loved it! And don’t even get me started on what a bowl of Ensaladang Talong did to our char-grilled barbecue meals !
So we had this again for dinner last night, to accompany the crisp roast pork entrée. For me, the best part is when I mash this up even more and mix it into boiled jasmine white rice. Eaten alone or as a side, this eggplant salad is sheer excellence!
Ensaladang Talong is a classic Filipino eggplant salad that is so simple to make, yet filled with layers of savory flavors. Start with roasted eggplants, peel and mash them. Mix in chopped onions, garlic and peppers. Flavor it with seasonings and a thick coconut cream vinaigrette. Serve this as a side or an entrée by itself. This recipe was adapted from the cookbook ‘Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine’. What I prepared here served 2.
- Asian or Japanese eggplants - 2 to 3 pieces, about 1 cup when mashed (or use 1 large aubergine) - Asian markets have the Japanese variety
- onion - 1 medium, chopped fine
- garlic - 4 cloves, minced fine
- red bell pepper - 1/2 cup chopped
- salt - 1 teaspoon
- black pepper powder - 1 teaspoon
- coconut cream - 1/2 cup (canned)
- fresh ginger - 1/2 teaspoon finely minced
- white vinegar - 3 Tablespoons
- fish sauce or Filipino 'patis' - 2 teaspoons
- scallions or green onions - 1/2 cup chopped, divided, half for eggplants mashed, half for garnish
- tomatoes - 1 or 2 large, sliced 1/4 inch thick , to layer salad
- boiled jasmine white rice - for serving
- Roast the eggplants. You can do it different ways. Open flame : roast the eggplants over an open flame until charred, for about 12-15 minutes. Or oven roast : place the eggplants in a shallow roasting pan, at 400 F degrees for 20 to 23 minutes. (Note: if oven roast, the outer skin will not have a blackened charred look, but that’s okay because you peel it off anyway.)
- When eggplants have cooled for a few minutes, peel the outer skin off the eggplant carefully. The eggplant has turned soft by now, so peel off slowly. Use a serrated knife to help scrape off the skin which has turned dark brown and wrinkled.
- In a medium bowl, mash and mix the eggplant filling with the rest of the ingredients : chopped onions, minced garlic and red peppers, scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or till ready to serve.
- In a small saucepan, over medium low heat, mix together the coconut cream, ginger, vinegar, fish sauce. Allow to boil in about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the coconut burn. Turn off heat and remove from stove top.
- To assemble salad: arrange the tomato slices with a layer of eggplant salad in between. Place 2 to 3 tomato slices atop each other with the eggplant in between. End with the top layer of eggplant salad. Pour a few tablespoons of the coconut vinaigrette. Garnish with scallions. Serve hot or cold with an entrée and boiled jasmine white rice.
- Cook's comments: in the Philippines, we use Japanese or Asian eggplants which are slim and long, measuring about 8 - 10 inches in length, about 2 inches wide. They are sweeter in flavor and smoother in texture. In the USA, I buy this variety of eggplant from Asian markets. If not convenient, I buy the large aubergines and the recipe is just as delicious.
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