Thai Eggplant - A Popular Thai Food Ingredient
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This golf ball look-alike is one of the most famous Thai food ingredients. Thai people eat them just about as often as Americans eat potatoes. Unlike other eggplants, the Thai eggplant can be eaten raw, usually with Thai spicy dips. Some people call it "round eggplant" but in Thailand, we just know it as "ma keua praw." Ever since I moved to California, I haven't got to enjoy my beloved Thai eggplants very often at all. Even big Asian grocery stores don't always have them. Yet, last Saturday was my lucky day; I found them and brought home a bunch. Sorry I won't let you get your hands on any of my eggplants, but I'm happy to share my knowledge about them and teach you how to select, store and cook them properly.
Thai Eggplant Description
On average, the Thai eggplant is about 1.5 inches in diameter, looking pretty similar to a golf ball with a stem. The color can be medium green, pale green or white with green stripes. What makes it unique is the crunchy texture and mild flavor. That's why it can be enjoyed raw without removing the skin. Typically, the Thai eggplant has a tiny bit of a bitter taste, but the bitterness could become stronger when the eggplant is overmatured. As for the aroma, the Thai eggplant is very neutral smelling when it's raw, and develops a little earthy scent when it's cooked. Believe it or not, although eggplants are generally used and regarded as vegetables, they are biologically classified as fruits! Well, I don't care what plant biologists say, I will always see eggplants as veggies. I just can't help it. Even at a supermarket, we don't usually find eggplants right next to apples and grapes, do we?
Buying, Selecting and Storing Thai Eggplants
In Thailand, these eggplants are a common food ingredient, but here in the U.S., they're very unusual vegetables to eat (or "fruits" as plant biologists would say!). Mainstream supermarkets don't usually have them. Your best bet is to look for them in an Asian grocery store. Sometimes you may find Thai eggplants in a farmers' market as well, but you'll have to look for a stall that sells Asian vegetables.
The younger and fresher the eggplants are, the better they taste. As I've said earlier, overmatured eggplants usually have a more bitter flavor. Plus, they tend to look too brown and unappetizing on the inside. To make sure you select the freshest Thai eggplants, take a close look at the stems. They should be green rather than brown and firmly attached to the eggplants. Then check the firmness and color of the eggplants. Select only the ones that are very firm and don't look yellowish.
The best way to store Thai eggplants is to keep them in a bottom compartment of your refrigerator. Fresh eggplants can be stored up to a week. However, if you have no choice but to buy slightly overmatured eggplants, you should plan to use them within 3 days.
Using Thai Eggplants in Thai Dishes
- Eat Them Raw - Eating raw round eggplants with spicy dips is the easiest way to enjoy them. Just rinse them, remove the stems, and either slice or cut them into small wedges. Then get ready for an eggplant feast!
- Curry Them - The Thai eggplant is a common ingredient in green and red curry. There's no need to remove the skin at all. In fact, the skin of Thai eggplants can lend a very interesting texture to a curry dish. What I particularly love about Thai eggplants is that they really absorb the flavor and aroma of the other ingredients they're being cooked with. They take quite some time to become tender, though, so you'd better slice them thin if you want a quick meal.
- Add Them to a Stir-Fry Dish - Thai people use these round eggplants in stir-fries a lot, but not just any stir-fry dishes. For some reason, they're only used in spicy stir-fries. You can try stir-frying Thai eggplants with some meat, basil leaves and red or green curry paste. Start by sauteing some minced garlic with some curry paste. Put the eggplants into the hot skillet the same time as the meat or right after, then cook until the eggplants are very tender. Add the basil leaves and some salt or fish sauce at the end, then just toss together quickly. This delicious dish can be done in just about 20 minutes!
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