BBQ: Thai'ed Up on Memorial Day


Long ago—like seven years ago—I published my first cookbook, Asian Vegetables with Chronicle Books. (I know, a hot topic. Let's just say it's a good book, but no best seller.) Oddly, based on this book—which has all of two grilling recipes—I was invited to participate in a big grill-fest in Seattle, along with some serious barbecue guys. I was the only woman. And pregnant at that.

At this rooftop event, Steven Raichlen (you know, of The Barbecue Bible, which just came out with its 10th anniversary, full-color edition?) was right next to me doing something with hunks of protein, just like everyone else. I figured my "Fiery Grilled Eggplant and Chili Salad" was going to be a bust. But instead, people were starved for something veggie. I had the longest line there and I ran out of food before anyone else. (And because I was wearing purple—with a big belly—was asked if I was dressed as an eggplant more than once.)

So, what I'm trying to say, is if you're scrambling for a dish to bring to that last-minute Memorial Day barbecue, try out this seriously spicy, very delicious dish that I modified from a recipe from local Thai cookbook author and teacher Kasma Loha Unchit. Instant popularity guaranteed.

Fiery Grilled Eggplant and Chili Salad
Thai chilies can be found at New May Wah on Clement Street. Chinese eggplants are more lavender in color than Japanese eggplants.

3 to 5 Thai chilies, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar

4 long Chinese eggplants, tops removed
4 jalapeno chilies
1 shallot, thinly sliced in half-moons
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
Small handful of fresh cilantro leaves

Prepare a charcoal grill. While the coals are getting hot, make the dressing; In a small bowl, stir together the Thai chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

When the fire is very hot, place the whole eggplants and jalapenos on the grill. Turn both frequently until they are charred, softened and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the eggplants and chilies from the grill and place them in a paper bag, close it tightly and allow them to steam. When cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin from the eggplants and the chilies (using gloves if necessary for the chilies, which I highly recommend!).

Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and cut each half lengthwise into quarters. Cut the quarters crosswise into bite-sized pieces each about 1 1/2 inches long. Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies and slice them lengthwise into narrow strips.

Arrange the eggplant pieces on a platter, and scatter the chilies and the shallot slices on top. Pour the dressing over the salad. Garnish wiht the egg wedges and cilantro leaves. Serve at room temperature.

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