Garlic and Fish Sauce Eggplant is one of our family's go-to dishes. We ate it often as kids and eat it even more as adults. It's easy to make (and tastes even better the next day).
Eggplants are my favorite fruit (can you believe eggplant is a fruit, not vegetable).
I love them in all forms and dishes. Baked, broiled, steamed, fried...you name it! But there is one eggplant dish I love more than all the others.
The Eggplant Dish
It's the one my grandma makes. It evolved a little when my mom started making the dish. Then it evolved some more when I started making it. My sister still makes my grandma's version (details on grandma's version at the bottom of this post), but mom and I like the version we make.
I'm not sure what the name of the dish is...
You can't call it garlic eggplant (because people picture Chinese takeout garlic eggplant). You can't call it Vietnamese eggplant because that's too vague (even though this is where my grandma learned to make this dish and lived half her life). It's not really Chinese eggplant either.
So what do we do?
That my grandma in the back ^_^
We call it The Eggplant Dish.
If you ask anyone in our family (cousins, uncles, and aunts included) about The Eggplant Dish, they'll know what you're talking about. But when I explain this dish to friends, I call it Garlic and Fish Sauce Eggplant.
It's not a pretty dish (though beauty is in the eye of the beholder!), but it is one of my favorite things to eat.
Three Key Ingredients
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All you need is 3 ingredients for this dish:
- 5 Chinese eggplants
- Lots of minced garlic (we use an entire head of garlic)
- Nuoc mam aka fish sauce (either Three Crabs or Red Boat)
What Kind Of Nuoc Mam / Fish Sauce?
My mom and grandma swear by the Three Crabs brand of nuoc mam / fish sauce. You can find Three Crabs Fish Sauce here. That's the brand I always use when I cook with parents.
But when I make this dish in SF or NYC, I use the modern/hipster Red Boat Fish Sauce. My grandma jokes that this is the "young people's fish sauce" hahaha.
They're both great options. Feel free to use either (just make sure it's one of these two brands).
What Kind Of Eggplant?
Make sure you use Chinese eggplants. Japanese eggplants will work in a pinch, but don't use Italian or globe eggplants. They are too seedy (more seeds = more bitter) and won't work for this dish.
How Much Garlic?
You want LOTS of minced garlic for this dish.
One whole head of garlic for every five eggplants is a good ratio, though we've definitely used two heads of garlic in the past. No such thing as too much garlic.
Now that we have the details down, here's how to make Garlic and Fish Sauce Eggplant!
How To Make Garlic and Fish Sauce Eggplant
First, peel and mince the garlic. Set that aside in a bowl.
Then boil a large pot of water. Rinse the eggplants and put them in the pot. Cover and let cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. You want the eggplants to be soft and tender. Prick them with a fork, you should be able to pierce the skin easily.
Drain the eggplant, and let cool (if I'm in a rush, I run the eggplants under water for minute so that it cools faster).
Then peel and discard the stem and skin. Put the eggplant "meat" into a bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a saucepan to medium heat, and then add the garlic. Stir fry till the garlic is lightly golden.
Then pour in all the eggplant, and stir fry.
Use a wooden spoon to mix and mash until the eggplant is smooth and consistent in texture. The above photo is about one minute in. You'll want to cook for another three to four minutes (till most of the liquid from the eggplant evaporates).
Once you've got the texture down, then it is time to season the dish.
The neat part about this dish is that you only need one ingredient to season: nuoc mam/fish sauce! Add one tablespoon of nuoc mam/fish sauce at a time. Stir and mix, and then taste. We use about 2-3 tablespoons of nuoc mam/fish sauce for every five eggplants. It all depends on the size of the eggplants and how strong you prefer the nuoc mam/fish sauce flavor.
Then you are all pau (that's the Hawaiian word for done 🙂 ). Eat it hot, with a big bowl of rice.
P.S. For those who are curious, my grandma's original version differs in three ways:
- She adds chopped Thai chilis (stirred in at the end).
- She also adds eggs. When the dish is just about finished, she pushes the eggplant to the edge of the pan, pours in one or two beaten eggs and does a quick scramble/mix. The eggs are half scrambled and half mixed into the eggplant.
- While I like this dish more saucy/wet, grandma prefers it dry so she stir fries it for a little longer (adding the beaten egg also soaks up some of the moisture).
My Garlic and Fish Sauce Eggplant recipe below ^_^
- 5 Chinese eggplants
- 1 whole head garlic, peeled and minced
- 2-3 tablespoons nuoc mam / fish sauce
- Rinse the eggplants. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Put in the eggplants, cover the pot and let cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Use a fork to prick the eggplant skin, you want the eggplant to be fully cooked and very tender to the touch.
- Drain and let the eggplant cool. Once cool, peel off and discard eggplant stem and skin. Set aside the eggplant in a bowl.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a pan, and stir fry garlic until lightly golden. Add in the eggplant and keep stir frying, using a wooden spoon to mix/mash the eggplant. You may need to add more oil at this point because eggplant soaks up a lot of oil.
- Once the eggplant texture looks smooth and even, add the nuoc mam/fish sauce by the tablespoon. Mix and taste after the addition of each tablespoon till you hit the right amount of desired flavor.
- Serve hot with a big bowl of rice.