Ethnic Eggplant Varieties Explained

May 4, 2016


Our guide to the many shapes, sizes, and colors of this versatile vegetable.

 

Globe Eggplant

The Basics:  The most common variety, used across the, well, globe. These are the big, bulbous eggplants with deep, glossy black-purple skin.  You know: paint can purple eggplant.

Availability: Year round.

What's Special About It: The classic globe offers a consistent combination of juiciness and firmness.

To Salt or Not to Salt:  With a somewhat tough skin and occassional bitter notes, it's best to salt these hefty eggplants.

Best For:  Saucy, baked dishes like eggplant parmagiana, eggplant casserole.

Try It In: Baked Eggplant Parmesan from Gimme Some Oven

 

 

Graffiti Eggplant

Grafitti-Eggplant

The Basics:  Classic eggplant flesh with a distinct "cool factor": striking, stripy purple and white skin.

Availability: Spring through fall.

What's Special About It:  Skin is thinner and more tender than the globe, and it absorbs less moisture, making it particularly well suited to applications where it has to hold its shape.

To Salt or Not to Salt:  The graffiti will do very well without salting, especially if they are small.  If you have particularly large ones, you might consider a brief salting.

Best For:  Grilling, roasting, or sauting and serving unadorned to show off the striking skin.

Try It In:  Graffiti Eggplant, Green Tomato & Herbed Goat Cheese Stackers from Linda Wagner

 

 

Japanese Eggplant

Japanese-Eggplant

The Basics:  Slender eggplants with creamy, aromatic, and virtually seedless white flesh. Deep purple color, and a dark purple - almost black - calyx. 

Availability: Year round, with peak season summer through fall.

What's Special About It: Thin, tender skin; sweet, mild taste; and a creamy white flesh that resists browning when cut and absorbs flavors well.

To Salt or Not to Salt:  No need to salt this tender, sweet eggplant.

Best For:  Adaptable for almost any recipe. Particularly well suited to dishes with Asian flavors like miso, yuzu, mirin, or soy sauce.

Try It In: Nasu Dengaku (Miso Glazed Eggplant) from Momofuku for 2

 

 

Chinese Eggplant

Chinese-Eggplant

The Basics:  Very long and very thin with almost no seeds and therefore no bitterness. Vivid purple color.

Availability: Year round.

What's Special About It: Tender flesh and thin skin cooks quickly, but maintains a pleasant firm texture that holds up well to bold, spicy flavors.

To Salt or Not to Salt:  No need to salt this almost seedless eggplant.

Best For:  The best pick for spicy stir-fries and Chinese braised or baked dishes.

Try It In: Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce from Steamy Kitchen

 

 

Thai Eggplant

The Basics:  Golf-ball-sized eggplants with a distinct green and white patterened skin.  Ubiquitous in Southeast Asia.

Availability: Sporadic

What's Special About It: Small size and tender skin means they can be cooked whole without worrying about seeds or bitterness.  Soaks up the flavor of sauces and broths.

To Salt or Not to Salt:  No need to salt.

Best For:  Coconut-based curries, Asian stews and soups.

Try It In: Thai Green Curry with Chicken & Eggplant from Rachel Cooks Thai

 

 

Indian Eggplant

Indian-Eggplant

The Basics:  Small, egg-shaped eggplants with sometimes matte, somtimes shiny reddish-purple skin that are most commonly used in India.

Availability: Year round, with peak season in spring.

What's Special About It: Tender skin, few seeds, and the perfect size for single serve stuffed eggplants!

To Salt or Not to Salt:  No need to salt.

Best For:  Indian curries, stuffing, pickling, or aromatic sautes with bold spices.

Try It In: Stuffed Indian Eggplant from Mark Bittman

 

 

Italian Eggplant

The Basics:  Also known as a baby eggplant, these petite eggplants look like miniature versions of the common globe, but a little slimmer.

Availability: Year round.

What's Special About It:  Less seeds than a globe eggplant, but the same distinctly "eggplant-y" flavor

To Salt or Not to Salt:  Some might like to salt this small eggplant, but it's not necessary.

Best For:  Caponatas, ratatouille, or other dishes featuring an abundance of summer vegetables stewed together.

Try It In: Grilled Baby Eggplant with Plum Tomatoes & Fresh Basil from Fine Cooking

 

 

Sicilian Eggplant

The Basics:  Large eggplants with a shape similar to an heirloom tomato with coloring ranging from bright white to lilac to deep violet.

Availability: Sporadic.

What's Special About It: Thin skin and a subtle, mild flavor that is appealing to all.

To Salt or Not to Salt:  It's advisable to salt this large eggplant.

Best For:  Caponatas, ratatouille, or other dishes featuring an abundance of summer vegetables stewed together.

Try It In: Sicilian Eggplant Caponata with Grilled Polenta Wedges from Happy Hearted Kitchen

 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Posted by:
Liam Lindsay


Tags:
eggplant, guide, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, baby, graffiti, Nasu, Konasu, Thai, Sicilian, produce, produce 101


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