Fried Eggplant with Spicy Melon Sauce and Bright Herbs

Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a vegetarian entrée with rice


4 Japanese eggplant
1 small size cantaloupe (or similar melon)
4 chile peppers*
4 sprigs each Assorted Herbs **
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot or small spring/summer onion
4 scallions
1 nob ginger
1 Tbl benne seed
½ tsp benne oil
½ tsp ginger oil
½ tsp canola oil, plus more for fry blanching later
2 limes
1 tsp cider vinegar
3 Tbl white sugar
kosher salt, to taste

* Chef’s Note: Serrano or cayenne are preferred but jalapeno, or aji limon/Amarillo will work as well. Thai bird chiles will also work if you have a high tolerance

** Thai, Genovese or Holy basil, Parsley, Cilantro, & Mint can all be used



Mince the shallot or onion, cloves of garlic, nob of ginger and slice the chiles until you reach the seedy end parts (reserve the not too seedy slices for later). Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the benne, ginger and canola oil. Sweat the onion, garlic, ½ of the ginger and the chile butts until they are tender; while the aromatics are sweating, peel and deseed the melon. Roughly chop the flesh and add it to a blender. When the aromatics are tender, add them to the blender with melon, plus the cider vinegar, 1 tbl of white sugar and a hefty pinch or two of kosher salt. Blend on high until smooth; strain the sauce to remove any fibrous pulp. Adjust the seasoning with salt, vinegar or sugar as needed to round out the flavors.




Start by blanching the eggplant. Heat a wok or tall sided sauce pot/stock pot over medium heat with at least an inch of canola oil. Bring the oil to 350 degrees, using a candy thermometer to check temp (you can also eyeball it; the oil should be shimmering and should sizzle immediately when a few drops of water are added to it but it should not be smoking. Cut the eggplant into pieces about two inches long, then quarter them length wise. Add them to the hot oil and blanch them for about 45 seconds or a minute until they start taking on some color on the cut surfaces and looking partially cooked but not for so long that they lose the beautiful color of their skin. Use a spider or strainer to remove the eggplant and rest them on paper towel to dry. Drain most of the oil from the wok or pan and turn the heat to low. Cut the scallions by slicing the greens as thinly as possible on the bias and the bottoms into ¼ inch medallions. Pick the herb leaves off of the stems, including any flowering buds. Raise the heat back to medium high. Add the scallion bottoms to the hot oil, as well as the remaining ginger and the benne seeds; stir fry for about 45 seconds or so until the scallions are tender and the seeds/ginger are aromatic. Cut the limes in half and squeeze the juice into the pan, plus the remaining 2 tbl of white sugar. Add the chile slices and the blanched eggplant and toss until everything is coated in the pan sauce and is hot all the way through. Turn the heat off, season with kosher salt to taste and toss all of the herb leaves in to the mixture. Serve immediately on top of the melon sauce; garnish with a pinch of flaky finish salt like Maldon and the thinly sliced scallion tops. Enjoy!