by Emily Stoffel of The Pig and Quill
There are three camps when it comes to eggplant. There are the Lovers, of course. Those who grew up, quite possibly, sitting down to heavy Pyrex casseroles layered painstakingly with crispy eggplant medallions, homemade red sauce and bronzed, bubbling cheese. There are the Haters. Those burned by the bitter zing of a crotchety aubergine plucked too far past its prime or, sin of sins, hastily prepared without proper salting and care. And then there are those who can see and appreciate the mighty eggplant’s potential, its paramount prowess as a literal sponge of flavor, the divine silkiness that is coaxed forth with just the right application of both fat and time—if only it weren’t for that nagging mouth itch.
That, my friends, was me. Until I met the Japanese eggplant. Slender, tender and quick-cooking, the Japanese eggplant—or as I like to call it, the less shady nightshade—is as friendly to the palate as its chubby cousin, the Globe, is persnickety. With fewer seeds and almost no bitterness, it’s the ideal candidate for stir-fries, tempura, or my favorite preparation: grilling. I love it halved or sliced thinly, brushed with a little sesame oil and grilled just until marked—only a couple of minutes a side. With shoyu mayo for dipping, this, alone, could be the star of your summer barbeques.
Here, though, that simple concept is taken up one more level with the application of sticky-sweet hoisin sauce, an Asian quasi-BBQ sauce, of sorts. And the mayo is mixed right into the marinade, which clings evenly (rather sexily, if I’m being honest. I mean, you slather up some eggplant and then try to argue with that sentiment…) to the eggplant in a way that quickly-absorbed oil does not. (Believe it or not, it actually allows you to use less fat with richer, more flavorful results.) And while the eggplant, as is, would be most excellent piled high atop a platter all on its own, it’s even more enjoyable tucked between two hunks of toasty French bread along with thick slices of creamy avocado and the whole complement of mostly traditional bánh mì toppings: Pickled veggies, crisp English cucumber and zippy cilantro. A generous smear of even more mayo (heavily accented with sriracha, please!), and you’ve got the sandwich of the summer.
Hoisin-Grilled Eggplant + Avocado Bánh Mì
Makes 4 sandwiches
Prep time: 10 mins (plus marinating veggies) / Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Note: These sandwiches are a vegetarian’s dream, but they could easily be vegan with the substitution of vegan mayo.
For the Pickled Veggies (Make Ahead)
1 bunch radishes, trimmed
2 large carrots
2 T white or rice vinegar
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
Run carrots and radishes through a spiralizer (or slice radishes very thinly and peel carrots into strips using a vegetable peeler). Add to a sealable container with vinegar, sugar and salt. Shake. Let marinate several hours or up to overnight. Drain before using.
For the eggplant
4-5 Japanese eggplant, sliced on the diagonal
1⁄4 cup mayo
1⁄4 cup hoisin sauce
1 T light oil, such as avocado oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
Assembling the Bánh Mì
1 slender crusty French baguette, halved lengthwise and quartered
1⁄4 cup mayo plus extra for bread
1 T sriracha
1 large avocado, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 recipe Hoisin-Grilled Eggplant
1 recipe Pickled Veggies
1 small bunch cilantro leaves
salt and pepper
1. Combine mayo, hoisin sauce, oil and garlic in a large bowl.
2. Add sliced eggplant and toss to combine. Heat grill or indoor grill pan to medium high.
3. Arrange slices in a single layer (work in 2 batches, if necessary) and grill until wellmarked, flipping once, about 2-3 mins per side. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Slather French bread with mayo and broil until golden brown.
5. In a small bowl, combine 1⁄4 cup mayo and sriracha.
6. To assemble sandwiches, spread bread with sriracha mayo and layer with avocado (seasoned with salt and pepper to taste), cucumber, eggplant, pickled veggies and cilantro. Top with more sriracha mayo-dressed bread (um, yeah, I like mayo…).
Slice sandwiches in half and enjoy!
Thank you, Emily! Not only are these the most beautiful Bánh Mì I’ve seen, they sound like they might be the most delicious. I can’t wait to try them! And thank you to Sarah Ann Noel for her help coordinating this series.
Emily Stoffel (Em) is the voice behind The Pig & Quill, a (mostly) food and (sometimes) lifestyle blog chronicling the real eats and deets of her life as a marketer, food writer/photographer, and new momma. She’s a firm believer in the “all things in moderation” motto including, as Julia Child has famously said, moderation itself. When Em’s not in the kitchen, you can find her swearing behind a jogging stroller, agonizing over her Amazon cart and planning elaborate vacations that sometimes work out. She lives with her husband, Chris, and their one-year-old daughter, Lana, in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow Em’s daily obsessions on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest and her naptime confessions on Snapchat (@thepigandquill).
P.S. More In Season recipe inspiration.