This roasted Chinese eggplant is sooo good you just won’t be able to stop eating it! We added Chinese 5-spice, which means that all your tastes are covered in this one salad - sour, bitter, salty, sweet and umami.
If you're a fan of Asian cuisine, then you're going to love this roasted Chinese eggplant recipe! It's the perfect combination of flavours that will make your taste buds happy.
Roasting the eggplant brings out its natural sweetness and infuses it with the Chinese 5-spice powder for a truly unique taste. It's a flavour explosion that will have you coming back for more!
Should You Salt Your Eggplants?
Salting your eggplant is a great way to bring out its delicious flavour and create a luxuriously creamy texture.
It draws out the excess water inside the eggplant, causing it to 'sweat' and form pools of brown liquid at the bottom of your bowl. This process concentrates the flavour and seasons the eggplant right through.
Plus, it will give you a much creamier, luscious texture than unsalted eggplant, which tends to be firmer and meatier.
Salting the eggplant is an important step in making this Roasted Chinese Eggplant recipe, so please don't skip it!
Roasting v.s. Frying Eggplant
Roasting and frying are two great ways to cook eggplant.
- Frying is a wet heat cooking method that gives your eggplant a crunchy outside and a creamy inside.
- Roasting is a dry heat cooking method that caramelizes the eggplant and brings out its natural sweetness.
As eggplant soaks up too much oil when you fry it, I much prefer roasting it in the oven as it doesn't require a lot of oil, so much healthier.
Oh and the key to successfully roasting your eggplant is to salt it first 😉.
You Will Need
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Eggplants - we have used regular eggplant, but feel free to choose whatever variety takes your fancy. You can also make it with long, Chinese or Japanese eggplant; just cut them in half lengthwise and score the flesh instead.
- Please make sure that you take the time to salt your eggplants for this recipe.
- Pepper, Chillis & Onions - we have used hot red chillis and long bullhorn peppers for a combination of heat and a mild pepper taste. But feel free to use just peppers or just chillis – whatever suits your tastes. I have also made it with green onions and without any onions at all. You will need to have a mix of colours and be sure that it all comes to approximately 200 grams.
- Ginger & Garlic - we have used both ginger and garlic here, which is a classic Asian flavour combination. I have also made it without the garlic and doubled the ginger, and it was still a brilliant mix.
- Chinese 5 Spice - this spice is used to add an Asian accent to any dish; you should be able to find it in the spice section of your supermarket or at any Asian market.
- The Oils - I have roasted the eggplants with some coconut oil, but you may use any neutral oil that you like. The chilli mix has been pan-fried with some sesame oil for a flavour boost. If you don't have it, you can add some sesame seeds to the mix instead.
- The Dressing - we have made up a wonderfully aromatic 5-spice dressing which can be made up to a week or more in advance as there are no fresh ingredients in it.
To Make Your Own Chinese 5-Spice Powder
You can make your own 5-spice blend by mixing 1 teaspoon each of anise powder, ground - Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, cinnamon and cloves.
Just use whatever you need for this recipe, and you can store the leftovers in a glass, sealed container in a dark part of your pantry to use again (great with chicken or pork ribs).
💡 Top Tips 💡
How to Make It
There are several stages to making this Asian eggplant salad, and it is important to get the order of things right so that you are not wasting too much time.
In reality, there are only 15 minutes at the most where you are actively doing something - preparing the eggplant, cutting the vegetables and frying them, making the vinaigrette and then assembling everything.
The rest of the time, you are waiting for your eggplants while they are salting (30 minutes) and while they are roasting (30-40 minutes).
Step 1 - Salt the Eggplant!
CUT THE EGGPLANT INTO ROUNDS
SALT YOUR EGGPLANTS
ONE LAYER AT A TIME
LET STAND FOR 30 MINS
WAIT FOR BEADS TO FORM
PAT DRY WITH A TOWEL
Step 2 - Make Your Pepper Mix.
REMOVE THE SEEDS FOR MILD
THEN DICE THE CHILLI
SLICE CHILLIS WITH SEEDS FOR HOT
ADD PEPPER MIX TO HOT PAN
ADD GINGER & GARLIC
FRY UNTIL SOFT
Step 3 - Roast Your Eggplants.
PLACE EGGPLANT ON TRAY,
ADD OIL AND 5-SPICE
COOK UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN,
Step 4 - Shake-up Dressing and Prepare Garnish.
PLACE DRESSING INGREDIENTS IN A JAR
SHAKE YOUR VINAIGRETTE
Step 5 - Assemble Your Roasted Chinese Eggplant Salad.
ARRANGE EGGPLANT ON A PLATTER
POUR OVER YOUR VINAIGRETTE
PLACE YOUR CHILLI MIX ON TOP
ADD YOUR CORIANDER (CILANTRO)
🍽️ Serving Suggestions
This roasted Asian eggplant dish is a great side for any meal.
Serve it with a stir-fry, rice, noodles, or just eat it on its own.It's also great to serve as part of an Asian banquet or as a side at your next BBQ.
Try it with…
It's so flavourful and satisfying that you won't be able to stop eating it!
People Also Ask
Long/Chinese/Japanese eggplants contain fewer seeds than globe eggplants, which makes them less bitter.
But, as we are salting them first to draw out their bitterness, regular ones are good here, plus they are just so much cheaper!
Cooking eggplant can be tricky - if it turns out too mushy, you may have used too much oil or not cooked it at a high enough temperature. A sprinkle of salt before cooking can also help draw out excess moisture.
The difference between ginger and galangal is that ginger has more of a fresh, spicy-hot taste with a touch of sweetness, while galangal has more of a citrus, almost pine-like taste.
Yes, you can roast the eggplants the day before and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
As there are no fresh ingredients in the dressing, it can be made up to a week in advance and kept in a dark spot in your pantry. I like to cook the chilli mix fresh on the day.
On the day, I just bring the eggplants to room temperature before assembling the salad.
A great salad to food prep for weekday lunches as it keeps so well in the fridge. Just add the coriander the day before. It travels well, so it is perfect for taking to picnics, potlucks or barbecues.
Our Roasted Chinese Eggplant salad will keep vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free eaters happy. With a little tweaking, it can be made suitable for all others.
For keto/low carb, use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Swap the seasoned rice vinegar (it has added sugar) for some regular rice vinegar and add a pinch of a keto sweetener instead.
For gluten-free check, the labels on the soy and rice vinegar as some may have unsuitable additives. Use coconut aminos to make it whole30 and paleo-friendly.
- 3 medium eggplants (approximately 1.2 kilos or 42 ounces)
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-Spice powder
- Coarse sea salt
- 3 long chillis (approximately 60 grams, 2.11 ounces)
- 2 small bullhorn peppers (or banana capsicums - approximately 80 grams, 2.82 ounces)
- 1 small small onion (approximately 60 grams, 2.11 ounces)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- ¼ cup MCT or any other neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (use non-seasoned for keto and lime juice for gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (use coconut aminos or tamari for keto & gluten free)
- ½ teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice powder
- Wash your eggplants and trim, then slice them into 2.5 cm (½ inch rounds).
- Layer the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle some coarse sea salt on each layer, letting them stand for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 220°C (430°F) and line a pan with baking paper.
- Wash your chilli and bullhorn capsicum (pepper) remove the core and seeds. Thinly slice the chilli, then chop the peppers into small dice
- Remove the papery skin, from your onion, trim the ends and chop into small dice.
- Heat a large frypan on medium to high heat, then add one tablespoon of sesame oil, add your sliced chillis, the diced capsicum and onion and sauté until soft (2-3 minutes).
- Mince your garlic and grate your ginger then add them to your frypan and cook until they are aromatic (approximately 2-3 minutes).
- Pat your eggplant dry to remove the salt and water, then add the eggplant slices to a lined baking tray, drizzle with the melted coconut oil and sprinkle with Chinese 5-Spice powder on both sides (approximately 2 teaspoons).
- Put your eggplant in the oven and roast until it's golden on both sides, flipping them once – about 15-20 minutes in. If it's looking a bit dry, then add a drizzle of oil, then pop it back in for an extra 10-15 minutes.
- While your eggplants are roasting, wash your coriander (cilantro), pat dry and chop roughly, then place to one side.
- Add all your vinaigrette ingredients to a glass jar and shake until emulsified (there is no need to season as there will be enough seasoning from the salted eggplant and from heat from the chillies).
- Arrange your eggplants on a round platter, pour over your dressing, then place your chilli mix on top of the eggplant, scatter the chopped coriander on top of the chilli mix to garnish and serve when you are ready.