This Thai spicy eggplant recipe is a delicious stir fry to serve with creamy coconut milk brown rice. With the rich flavor of Thai basil, this spicy eggplant is the ultimate meal.
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Types of Eggplant
There are many different types of eggplant and for this recipe, we’re using the long, skinny purple variety. This type of eggplant is often called Japanese or Chinese eggplant and is typically lighter in color compared to the dark purple skin of other eggplant varieties.
In contrast, American eggplants (also called globe eggplant) are the large, wide eggplants that many people associate with the word eggplant. Then there’s Italian eggplant, which look very similar to globe eggplants, but are typically a bit smaller in size.
Thai eggplants are actually green and can be quite bitter in flavor. While this is a Thai spicy eggplant dish, the word Thai in this recipe title refers to the type of basil we’re using.
In Thai restaurants where I live, it’s typically the lighter purple, long and skinny eggplants being used. Since this is what I’m used to and enjoy, it’s what I’m sticking with for this delicious spicy eggplant recipe.
Eggplant vs Aubergine?
Depending where you live, eggplant may be called aubergine. Both words refer to the same vegetable.
Eggplant is the common term used in Canada and the USA whereas aubergine is used in the UK and Europe more often.
If you like, you can call this a Thai spicy aubergine recipe!
How to Cook Thai Eggplant
Thai eggplants, or any variety of eggplant, can be tricky to cook. There are two important steps to ensure your eggplant recipe comes out perfectly:
- Soak the eggplant in salt water
- Cook thoroughly
Eggplant needs to be cooked properly otherwise it won’t taste good; it may not even taste edible without the proper preparation.
Soak the Eggplant in Salt Water
Start by slicing the eggplant. For this recipe, I cut the eggplant into wedges that are 2-3 inches long.
Place sliced eggplant into a bowl and toss it with a tablespoon of salt. It seems like a lot of salt, but it’s washed off later. The salt helps draw out the bitter compounds found in eggplant.
Cover the salted eggplant with water and soak for 20 minutes. This is a great time to prepare the other vegetables for the spicy eggplant stir fry, whisk together the sauce, and get the coconut rice cooking!
After 20 minutes, strain away the water and rinse off the eggplant pieces. Rinse a few times to get off as much salt as possible.
If you’re making Thai green eggplant, this is a critical step to improve the bitter flavor. For sweeter eggplant varieties (globe, Italian, Japanese/ Chinese), this step is technically optional but I like to take the time to do this.
Cook the Eggplant Thoroughly
Next, you need to cook the eggplant all the way through. This means there should be no spongy areas so if you poke the eggplant with a fork, it should be completely soft.
Undercooking eggplant is the most common mistake people make when preparing eggplant recipes.
Cooking eggplant thoroughly takes a bit of time which is why for this recipe, the eggplant is cooked first then added back into to stir fry everything together.
Undercooked eggplant can be very spongy and unpleasant to eat, so make sure to cook the eggplant properly!
Vegan Coconut Rice
We’re serving this delicious spicy Thai eggplant recipe with rich and creamy vegan coconut rice.
Coconut rice is the perfect pairing for a spicy stir fry dish because the strong flavors from the stir fry pair perfectly with the slightly sweet and creamy coconut rice.
If you’ve ever had coconut rice in a restaurant, you’ll know it has a slightly sweet taste, which is why we’re adding sugar to the rice as it cooks. To balance out the sweetness, salt is also needed.
Using lemongrass in coconut rice is common; however I did not include it in this recipe because I can never find lemongrass locally. If you have access to lemongrass you can toss a chunk into the coconut rice as it cooks and the bright, fresh lemongrass flavour will infuse into the rice!
You can use white rice or basmati rice to make coconut rice. The flavors and texture will be different depending on the rice you use.
Coconut Milk Brown Rice
For this recipe, I’ve decided to make a coconut milk brown rice. I typically keep lots of brown rice on hand because I enjoy the texture of it.
When it comes to making coconut rice, white rice is often used because it creates a softer texture when cooked compared to brown rice. However, if you prefer brown rice, cooking it in coconut milk is a delicious choice.
I recommend using a regular/ full fat variety of coconut milk for this recipe, otherwise the rice won’t be nearly as creamy and delicious.
Thai Basil vs Sweet Basil/ Regular Basil
Thai basil looks and tastes different from sweet basil. Sweet basil is also called Italian basil and for most people, it’s simply the regular basil found at the store, simply labeled “basil”.
If you can find Thai basil I highly recommend using it as it has a richer flavour and takes this spicy eggplant recipe to the next level.
I have a hard time finding Thai basil in the grocery store, but every time I do, I head straight over to grab some eggplants because I know I’m making this recipe!
I have also used sweet basil in this spicy eggplant and it tastes good, just a bit less flavourful, in my opinion. Thai basil really packs a strong pungent flavour vs sweet basil which is milder. Either way, basil is a delicious herb and will elevate the taste of this dish.
I would love to hear how your Thai spicy eggplant with coconut rice turns out in the comments below! If you share your creations on social media, be sure to tag @lettucevegout because I’d love to see what you make.
Thai Spicy Eggplant with Coconut Milk Brown Rice
- Cutting Board
- Large pan
- Can Opener
- Large bowl
- Large pot
- 3 medium Japanese eggplants the longer, skinnier variety
- 1 tbsp salt
- 4 tbsp coconut oil (divided)
- 1 225 g package cremini mushrooms
- 2 bell peppers I used 1 red and 1 yellow
- 3 stalks green onion
- 2 C brown basmati rice (or regular brown rice)
- 1 can 400mL coconut milk
- 600 mL water
- 3 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 bunch Thai basil about ½ C chopped
- Slice the 3 eggplants into wedges and place into a bowl. Toss with a tablespoon of salt. Cover with water and let sit while you prepare the coconut rice, other ingredients for the stir fry, and the sauce.
- After the other parts of the recipe are prepared, drain and rinse your eggplant a few times.
- Melt 2 tbsp coconut oil into a large skillet over medium heat and add the eggplant. Let it cook until it is tender all the way through (can easily poke a fork through it with no spongy sections). This takes 15-20 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the pan and proceed to prepare the rest of the stir fry.
- Slice the package of mushrooms, cut the 2 bell pepper into strips, and dice the 3 green onions.
- Remove eggplant from pan and melt in the other 2 tbsp of oil. Add in the peppers, mushrooms and green onion. Cook for 5 minutes. Add in the sauce and cooked eggplant. Let simmer for at least 5 minutes, up to 15 minutes.
- Whisk all the sauce ingredients together. I like to shake them in a jar. Make sure the miso paste is fully dissolved/ incorporated.
- Place the 2 C rice in a large pot.
- Add in the can of coconut milk plus 600 mL water (one and a half can-fulls from the 400 mL can).
- Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, turn the heat down to a simmer, place a lid on the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the rice while you prepare the rest of the meal.
- Can use rice cooker instead of pot if you have one!
- Wash and slice the Thai basil and stir it into the eggplant right before serving.
- Serve alongside the coconut rice.
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This is an updated post: Original post date July 2017.