I'll admit, I'm a total latecomer to the eggplant party. I wasn't until I started this blog in actual fact, that I really started to fall in love. For years I turned my nose up at them. It wasn't until I started cooking them in curries (like here and here) and roasting them (like here) that I really, truly began to appreciate their creamy goodness. There is one way I've always loved to eat eggplant though- Babaganosh, that stuff is crazy good. Full-stop.
I don't usually bother salting my eggplants these days, I do however have two exceptions: Homegrown small ones, as they seem to always be bitter (it could be that we're doing something wrong during the growing phase?) and larger eggplants that have loads of little dark seeds. This is usually a sign they will need salting to help draw out that bitterness.
While strolling around my local Asian grocers yesterday I spotted a bag of beautiful fresh round rice noodles. They always stock the rolls of fresh thin rice noodles which you then cut into shape, but seeing these thick round ones was a first for me. Naturally I bought some and I'm really hoping it's something that will be available from now on. Before changing our diets to gluten-free I used to live off udon noodles and it was with a lot of sadness that I finally gave up on them for good. Regular flat rice noodles are lovely don't get me wrong, but there's something about big fat noodles, noodles you can actually chew on, which gives me the most noodle joy. (There is such a thing right- noodle joy? I say yes).
I roasted up an eggplant and mixed up a quick little Chinese-inspired dressing to slather over the whole lot. A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, spring onion and chilli completed my noodle bowl experience and I can tell you there was much noodle joy being had in my house... for real.
Roasted eggplant + noodles with Chinese black vinegar dressing
I used some lovely fresh rice noodles from my local Asian grocer, these just need to be blanched in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then refreshed under cold running water before serving. If you are using dried rice noodles, cook them following the instructions on the pack. The eggplant would also be lovely served with cooked jasmine rice. You can find Chinese black vinegar and shao hsing at Asian grocers, however regular white rice vinegar will also work in place of black and if you aren't able to track down gluten-free shao hsing, dry sherry can be used instead or mirin if that's what you have at hand. I use kikkoman gluten-free soy sauce.
1 large eggplant, ends trimmed
olive oil, fine sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
cooked rice noodles (I used fresh ones, but dried are fine)
finely chopped spring onions (scallions), toasted sesame seeds + sliced chilli, to serve
Chinese Black vinegar dressing
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar *see headnotes
1 tablespoon shao hsing cooking wine or dry sherry *see headnotes
2 teaspoons unrefined raw sugar (or brown rice syrup)
2 teaspoons gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
Cut the eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter into 3 wedges. Sprinkle each cut side with a little fine sea salt and set aside for 20-30 minutes to draw out the bitter juices. Turn your oven on to 200C/400F to preheat while the eggplant is doing it's thing.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Continue to stir every few minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
Rinse eggplant slices, then pat dry with a clean tea-towel or paper towel. Brush each piece with a little olive oil and lay them on a oven tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning over once during cooking, until tender and golden brown on both sides.
Serve wedges of eggplant on cooked rice noodles, scatter with sliced spring onions, sesame seeds and chilli and drizzle with as much dressing as you like.