Part of the nightshade family, eggplants are a great vegetarian replacement for fish in tacos
Words by Romy Ash, recipe by Sarah Trotter and Romy Ash, pictures by Lauren Bamford and styling by Sarah Trotter
Mon 2 Mar 2015 00.39 GMTLast modified on Tue 9 Jul 2019 09.46 BST
Eggplant tempura tacos
Eggplant tempura tacos with cabbage, salsa verde, chipotle mayonnaise and jalapenos. Photograph: Lauren Bamford/The Guardian
Eggplants come in an incredible array of colours and sizes, despite the monotonous proliferation of large shiny black beauties on the market.
In my garden I have a yellow, elongated variety fruiting, the Brazillian Oval Orange, as well as Listada De Gandia – a round purple variety, with lovely white stripes.
Varieties can grow as small as a pea – these are common in Thai curries and have a bitter flavour – or as large as a pawpaw. The smaller fruiting varieties are usually sweeter – bar the bitter pea-sized ones – and don’t require any sort of salting or soaking before cooking. A relative of the tomato, chili, capsicum and potato, the eggplant or aubergine is part of the nightshade family.
At the market, choose a variety that suits your use. I always use the large black varieties for baba ganoush as they’re perfect for charring over a flame and produce a good amount of smoky flesh. Early Long Purple, Ping Tung or Little Finger are great varieties to use for this taco recipe. Lebanese grocers often have a wonderful variety of eggplants on display. Choose firm eggplants with shiny, unwrinkled skin.
The tempura eggplant taco is a great vegetarian replacement for a fish taco, giving that same crunch and delicate, mouthwatering flesh. It’s perfect with a crisp coleslaw and smoky chipotle mayonnaise, as well as the bite of a salsa verde, served up on a fresh tortilla.
You can buy quality tortillas at good grocers and delis. Look for 100% masa (flour made from corn), or if you have access to purchasing the masa itself, home made tortillas are very simple and easy to make once you get the knack of it. You will need a tortilla press to flatten the tortillas. We’ve given a simple recipe below.
Tempura eggplant tacos
Sign up for Word of Mouth: the best of Guardian Food every week
For the tortillas:
1 cup masa flour
Pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup water
Mix this together. It should make a cohesive ball of dough. You can add a little extra flour or water depending on how the mix comes together. Divide this large ball of dough into golf ball sized balls. 1 cup of masa flour makes about 6 tortillas. Press these balls of dough to make flat tortillas. You will need a tortilla press for this. Dry fry these flat tortillas in a cast iron fry pan, turning so that both sides of the tortilla are cooked. The tortillas will puff up and smell tasty. Remove from the pan and set aside, on a plate, under a clean tea towel. Cook each tortilla in this way. This can be done in advance, and then the tortillas reheated just before serving the tacos.
For the taco filling:
3 thin, long eggplants quartered, or 1 large eggplant cut into strips
½ cup cornflour (don’t confuse this with masa, it’s different and available at the supermarket)
1 cup plain flour
3 tbsp rice flour
2 pinches sea salt
2 cups soda water
Vegetable oil (grapeseed is the best, but it is also expensive)
Choose large black varieties of eggplant for baba ganoush as they’re perfect for charring over a flame Photograph: Lauren Bamford/The Guardian.
Coat the eggplant in cornflour and set aside. Mix flour, rice flour and salt, and whisk in the soda water until there are no lumps. Fill a medium saucepan to one-third full of oil and heat. To test the heat, drop of dollop of batter into oil. The hot oil should bubble energetically. If it doesn’t, remove the dollop and let the oil continue to heat. If it does, the oil is ready.
Dip the eggplant in the batter and then drop gently into the oil. Don’t try to fry too much eggplant at one time, just one layer. Fry until golden, remove to some kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt.
Serve immediately in your freshly cooked tacos with the array of suggested accompaniments below.
FacebookTwitterPinterest Eggplant tacos – too good to eat just one. Photograph: Lauren Bamford/The Guardian.
Serve the tacos with:
Red cabbage, sliced very thinly
Wedges of lime