4 large eggplants
2 teaspoons fine salt
100ml sweet soy sauce (I use ABC brand)
50ml reduced-salt soy sauce
100ml red rice or red wine vinegar
100g caster sugar
50g black bean and chilli oil (I use Lao Gan Ma brand)
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper, crushed
100ml canola oil
1 fresh red chilli (approx 7cm long)
100g coriander
4 spring onions
60g crispy shallots

This dish exploits eggplant’s porous texture and slightly bitter tones to deliver a punchy and fragrant salad. It is a hat tip to my travels in Southeast Asia, and it is ideal for lunch.

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1.Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.
2.Lay them cut-side down, and starting from 2cm below the stem, use a knife tip to cut 1cm thick slices lengthwise, leaving the eggplant attached to the stem.
3.Season with the salt and allow to stand on absorbent paper.
4.In a medium- sized pot, put the sweet soy, soy, vinegar, sugar, black bean and chilli oil, ginger, garlic and Sichuan pepper and bring to a simmer.
5.Reduce by one-third until it is glossy and the consistency of maple syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
6.Put a roasting tray in the oven and heat to 170°C.
7.Pat dry the eggplant and brush with canola oil.
8.Lay the eggplant skin-side up on the roasting tray and cook for 12 minutes.
9.While the eggplant is cooking, finely slice the red chilli, coarsely shred the coriander and discard any tough stalks, and slice the spring onions.
10.Arrange on a plate with the crispy shallots.
11.Remove the eggplant from the oven and carefully fan each half out in the centre of a plate.
12.Dress with 3 generous tablespoons of dressing.
13.Allow each person to top their eggplant with fresh chilli, herbs, spring onion and shallots.

Food styling, recipes & photography David Neville