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Hetty's Salt & Pepper Eggplant

Recipe by: Hetty McKinnon from To Asia, With Love

Serves: 4

Hetty's Salt & Pepper Eggplant
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Hetty McKinnon

Before I go home to visit, my mother and I talk on the phone about the food I want to eat when I arrive. My “off the plane” dish is always salt and pepper tofu. Pillows of tofu, gently fried until golden, scattered with chile and scallion seared in hot oil, and finished with a dusting of salt and pepper seasoning. This dish tastes like home. In this recipe I use eggplant, which is an exciting variation on this classic dish. My mum and I love eggplant—for lunch, she would often steam fingers of eggplant and serve it with soy sauce and white pepper. This recipe is great because it is completely adaptable—in fact, I tried broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and asparagus before finally settling on eggplant. Any of those veggies will work and, of course, use chunks of firm tofu if you wish.

Recipe taken from To Asia, With Love, by Hetty McKinnon, published by Prestel.

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  • 1 eggplant (about 10 ½ ounces / 300 g), cut into ⅛-inch-thick (4 mm) rounds
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
  • ½ cup (60 g) potato starch or cornstarch
  • Vegetable, sunflower or other high-temperature neutral oil
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • ½ – 1 long red chile, chopped
Salt and pepper seasoning
  • Eggplant: tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or asparagus


  1. Place the sliced eggplant in a bowl, add the tamari or soy sauce and toss to coat. Leave to marinate for 5–10 minutes. The marinade also tenderizes the eggplant, reducing the cooking time.
  2. To make the salt and pepper seasoning, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Place the potato starch or cornstarch in a bowl. Drain the eggplant, then add to the bowl and toss until well coated.
  4. Pour some oil into a small deep saucepan (about ½ inch / 1.25 cm deep) and heat over high heat until hot (test with a wooden spoon—if the oil sizzles, it is ready). Working with a few slices at a time, add the eggplant and fry, turning, until both sides are golden. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  5. Place the eggplant on a plate, sprinkle over some of the salt and pepper seasoning and toss to coat the eggplant. (Any leftover seasoning will keep in an airtight jar for several months.) Top with scallions and chile, and serve with rice.

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