If charcoal grilling sounds like too much work, an indoor grill, stovetop or electric, will char the vegetables just as well. But the smoky flavor and aroma will be different. If that’s not a big deal to you, go ahead and skip the charcoal grill. But if you want the total experience, well, you know what the solution is.
If your grill is large enough, grill the bell peppers, onion and tomatoes on one side (this will shorten the cooking time tremendously). Roll the bell peppers and tomatoes occasionally to char as much of the surface as possible.
About the grilling time. The eggplants should be cooked through. The flesh should be soft enough to be scraped off the skin with a spoon. The skins of the bell peppers should blister sufficiently so that it can be peeled (or wiped) off easily. The tomatoes and onion do not need to grill for too long. You just want to char them for flavor and not overcook them to prevent too much loss of moisture.
The sesame-soy dressing is a simple affair. But what gives it a wonderful kick is the addition of toasted sesame seeds. Not lightly toasted, mind you, but toasted until they are dark, the pan pulled from the heat at the last minute to keep the sesame seeds from burning.
Serve your grilled eggplant salad with fried, grilled or broiled chicken, meat or fish. We had it with pandan chicken. And a lovely summer day meal it was.
Grilled eggplant salad
- 2 large Asian eggplants - split lengthwise
- 2 bell peppers - any color but red ones make the salad so much more colorful
- 2 plump and juicy tomatoes
- 1 red onion - split into halves
- ¼ cup palm oil
For the sesame-soy dressing
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce - I used Kikkoman
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Split the eggplants lengthwise. Score the cut sides.
- Toss the eggplants, bell peppers, tomatoes and halved onion in oil.
- Grill the eggplants, about three minutes per side.
- Grill the bell peppers, tomatoes and onion halves until the skins are charred.
- While the vegetables cool, make the dressing.
- When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and roughly chop.
- Using a kitchen towel or a paper towel, wipe the bell peppers to remove the skins (or peel off if that’s more convenient for you).
- Cut the peeled bell peppers in half and scrape off the seeds. Dice the grilled bell peppers.
- Peel and roughly chop the red onion.
- Dice the tomatoes.
- In a large bowl, toss the eggplants, bell peppers, onion and tomatoes lightly but thoroughly.
- Drizzle in about three tablespoonfuls of the sesame soy dressing and toss again.
- Serve the grilled eggplant salad with the remaining dressing on the side.
- Optionally, garnish the salad with thinly sliced Thai basil.