You know, I had a perfectly clean kitchen this morning, so of course nothing would do but that I must make something not only deepfried, but breaded as well. I won't include pictures of the before & after of my kitchen, but I think I ought to sometime. If nothing else it would serve me as a cautionary device against my own ambition. Do I really want to cook the whatsit? Do I remember the eggplant tempura? Yes? Ok, I've been fairly warned.
Dad used to make these as one of his catering dishes. I think he used bigger eggplants, but I was also very small, so I could be wrong. I do know that he cut them in semi-circles, and that he filled them with pork, rather than chicken. But in any case, here is my version.
3 small eggplants- by small, I mean each of the ones I used were about 8" long and no more than about 3 1/2" wide.
1 chicken thigh
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 minced green onion or several chives ( I had chives)
half a slice of good white bread
about a tablespoon of water
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
flour for dredging
oil for frying
Slice the eggplant about 1/3" thick. Salt generously, and set aside to sweat while you make the filling.
Chop the chicken coarsely, then put it in a food processor with all the other filling ingredients. Process until well combined. It can have a little texture left in it if you want.
Start heating the oil. You want it between 350 and 375 degrees to cook in. Also, preheat the oven to 400.
Combine the batter ingredients and mix thoroughly. This time you want no lumps. Set the batter aside, it will thicken slightly before you use it, but it will remain quite thin.
Dry the eggplant slices on paper towel, then make sandwiches with about a tablespoon of chicken mix in each one. The amount of filling will depend on the size of the slices. You'll end up with some extra slices, but that's ok.
Once the oil is hot, blot any sweat off the outside of the sandwiches, then lightly roll them in flour. Tap off the excess, dunk them in batter, and slip them into the oil. Fry them just until they start to brown a bit on both sides, take them out and drain them a bit, then finish them on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 15-20 minutes to get them good and crispy. Serve them sprinkled with szechuan pepper and salt. Ponzu sauce would be pretty good too, of you have it.
1. Theoretically, you should be able to cook them entirely in the hot oil. I'm not very good at deepfrying, so I cheated. I put them in the oven to finish so that they wouldn't end up being sodden oil pucks.
2. The salting of the eggplant it important, for anybody that is unfamiliar with eggplant. They're kinda bitter, and salting them before cooking will make the bitter juices sweat out by osmosis. It also affects the texture, making the eggplant cook up more tender and custardy.
3. Make sure the sandwiches are dry before flouring them, or the batter will just fall off.
4. Choose male eggplant fruits rather than female ones. They have fewer seeds, and so they hold their shape better. How do you know the difference? Male fruits tend to be slightly smaller. They are also quite convex at the blossom end, and are more ovoid in shape. Female fruits tend to be a little larger, have a more pear-like shape, and the blossom end tends to be slightly pushed in, like a bellybutton.
What the heck is tempura, anyway? It's Japanese, right? Well, supposedly, it's a version of the battered, fried, fish that Portuguese sailors, being Catholic, ate during lent and other times (latin, tempora) when meat eating was discouraged. What's that got to do with Japan? Well, the Portuguese made it to Japan sometime in the 15th century, I think...
I think the batter is pretty neat, actually. If you have any extra at the end of the sandwiches, you can drizzle the batter into the hot oil and make some nice little crunchy bits. These are nice, because the sandwiches are quite soft, and the teensy cracker things add contrast.