Eggs. Plants. What? Purple! (九層塔茄子)


012I really didn’t like eggplant much as a kid.  I mean, come on!  A purple vegetable?  Gross!  That being said, I think a good part of my dislike of eggplant was the fact that I had only had poorly cooked, tough-skinned, American eggplant.  You know, the big, fat, bulbous, so-dark-the-purple’s-almost-black kind.  As I grew older, however, I discovered that eggplant doesn’t need to be so difficult to eat.  I don’t remember where or when I first started eating eggplant again, but now I don’t mind the purple color at all.  In fact, I find it strangely appealing.  After all, how many vegetables can claim to be part of the nightshade family (a family of toxic plants) and also be related to the tomato and the potato and be purple?!  Pretty impressive, I’ve got to say.

I found this recipe in my Yum Yum Hakka (好食客家菜) recipe book, and the moist and juicy tenderness of the eggplant is just delectable!  After discovering that it’s apparently eggplant-season in San Francisco (all the stalls of the Civic Center farmer market were filled), I had to make it.  I’m still working on cooking it properly so I can retain more of the vibrant purple hue of the eggplant’s skin.  But regardless of its final color, it’s still tasty, and that’s what matters!

007Stir-Fried Eggplants with Basil (九層塔茄子)


  • 3 eggplants
  • 4 stalks basil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 stalk leek
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Rinse eggplants well and cut into chunks by turning a quarter turn after each cut, then soak in salt water for some time. *
  2. Heat 4 bowls of cooking oil in wok, deep-fry eggplant pieces until soft and remove. **
  3. Heat 2 tbsp of cooking oil in wok, stir-fry crushed garlic until fragrant.  Return eggplant pieces and leek sections with seasonings (soy sauce and salt).  Stir until evenly mixed.  Sprinkle with basil leaves before removing from heat.  Mix well and remove.  Serve.

*Eggplants darken once cut, soak in salt water before cooking.

** The eggplant will maintain its purple color if deep-fried first before stir-frying.  Eggplants darken if fried directly with a little oil.

6 Responses to “Eggs. Plants. What? Purple! (九層塔茄子)”

  1. I don’t like to deep fry eggplant (to greasy), you could always quickly blanch it in salted water, then add to the eggplant to the strifry towards the end.

    Or my mother likes to heat very little oil and just stir fry it and it will aborb oil so my mom presses it with a large metal spoon, stirs it more and continues in addition she covers, then presses and stirs, covers, etc.

    Hope my tip was useful 🙂

    • 2 Jeanne

      Hmm, Nathan, you’re right– it IS really greasy. Maybe I’ll try it the way your mother does it. Does the color stay as vibrant, or does it turn brown?

      • My mothers method stays vibrant, the water one I think unfortunately turns brown 😦

  2. Eggplant or Aubergine is my very favorite. And there are tons of ways to cook them. I like this one 🙂

  3. 5 Sophia

    Four bowls?? Wow…that’s a lot of oil.

    • 6 Jeanne

      The four bowls of oil is to deep fry the eggplant. I didn’t actually use that much oil to deep fry them– I don’t have that much oil hanging around my apartment– but that’s probably why a good number of my eggplant pieces turned brown while I was cooking them….

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