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Cooking Tests

Eggplant Taste Test

by Michael Chu
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Last weekend, Tina and I went to the Multicultural Harvest Festival in San Jose, CA. This event took place at the Emma Prusch Farm Park. Several of the booths featured produce or exotic fruits that were grown during the year at the Park. One booth in particular displayed several varieties of eggplants. They grew 41 different varieties to see which types of eggplants would grow well in San Jose. It turns out that 38 of the 41 varieties did well, according to the woman manning the booth. While we were admiring the various shapes and colors that egg plants come in, a woman asked Tina if she wanted to take some home (this was late in the day). We jumped at the opportunity and went home with four different types of eggplants. I unfortunately, did not manage to capture the names of all the varieties. Even so, I prepared a taste test.

We came home with a Pandora Striped Rose (the egg shaped one), another that looked like the Pandora, but was longer and curved, two that seem like small Chinese, and a really skinny dark colored one. The Pandora Striped Rose was not springy when I squeezed it - usually a sign that the egg plant is past it's prime eating age. The other eggplants seemed to all be in good condition (except the dark thin one was a bit too soft).



I started by cutting the eggplants into approx. half inch pieces. Since I didn't know the names of the eggplants, I drew little pictures of each type of eggplant onto small pieces of paper so I could keep track. I also minced about six cloves of garlic to cook the eggplant with.


Cooking each batch separately, I sauteed the eggplant in about one tablespoon of light olive oil. It's important to keep the eggplant moving when it hits the hot oil because eggplant can really suck up a lot of oil and a single piece could easily absorb most of the oil in the pan. So, I force the eggplant to share by tossing constantly during the first few seconds in the pan. I then tossed in a pinch of kosher salt and continued to toss. Once all the egg plant had started to cange color (an indication that they are cooking through), I threw in some minced garlic and cooked until the garlic became tender.


Once all the eggplant had been cooked out in the same manner, I called Tina over and we started tasting, going back and forth between plates. My favorite was the one in the upper left corner - the eggplant that looked like the Pandora Striped Rose but was longer and bent. The skin was soft and flavorful and it had a distinct eggplant flavor without being over powering. Next was the one in the lower right corner, cooked from the two eggplants that look like miniature chinese eggplants. The skin was not as soft, but had a little crispy texture to it. Favor was a bit bland, but with the salt, it still tasted quite good. The almost loser was the really thin, dark eggplant in the upper right. Skin was a bit tough and not much flavor. The loser was the Pandora Striped Rose - both skin and flesh were tough and flavor a bit bitter. This eggplant could have benefited greatly from a salting.


My final conclusion? Most of the eggplants pretty much tasted the same, but the skin or flesh would be tougher or softer. Generally, that is an age issue. I don't think I would be able to tell one variety from the next had they all been springy (soft and yet firm) to the touch.

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Written by Michael Chu
Published on October 05, 2004 at 06:36 PM
34 comments on Eggplant Taste Test:(Post a comment)

On October 14, 2005 at 01:07 PM, Ariel Moon (guest) said...
checking out your blog...


On October 14, 2005 at 01:07 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I like your blog very much, learn a lot of things from here. As i know, Pandora Striped Rose normally used by Indian to cook vegetarian curry. It taste good in the curry, you can try it next time when you happen to have the Pandora Striped Rose again.


On October 14, 2005 at 01:08 PM, an anonymous reader said...
If you want to take away any bitterness of an eggplant just cut it an cover it with fresh water for one hour minimun. It works


On October 14, 2005 at 01:08 PM, odo (guest) said...
To get rid of the bitter taste you can cut them in thin slices and salt them. After 15 min you can see little drops containing the bitter compounds sweating out from the osmotic pressure. Use a towel to take the moist and salt away and continue with the preparation!


On October 14, 2005 at 01:08 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Hello,
I recently found your blog and really like it.
I saw such a pretty eggplant in the farmers market last week, it was small, egg-shaped and white. I now regret not buying it as I assume it must have been an original variety given the nomenclature in use.
Cal


On October 14, 2005 at 01:09 PM, tomato (guest) said...
Is there any chance you'd be willing to try another test? Cookbooks always say to slice eggplant, salt the slices, and let them drain between paper towels for thirty minutes. This is supposed to remove bitterness. I've long suspected that the eggplant wouldn't be bitter anyway but have never gotten around to testing the theory. To make the test fair, you'd have to use slices from the same fruit because they vary so much.


On October 14, 2005 at 01:09 PM, pena (guest) said...
Talking 'bout eggplants, try this, using the almost black ones (we call it congo blue in show biz)
Cut them in half, lenghtwise. Salt generously and lay salt down on an aluminium square roasting pan. Forget in hot oven for 90 minutes ou more. It needs to burn a little, the skin will srink. Let it cool, remove from pan using your hands and cajoling gently. Using a spoon scrape to the skin, now good for composting. Mix violently, to blend every tiny last bit, using lots of olive oil, some garlig, some oregano. Eat with heavy bread. Cry for more.


On October 14, 2005 at 01:10 PM, an anonymous reader said...
wow very cool!


On October 14, 2005 at 01:10 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I miss the round egg shaped small sized eggplants. I am Indian and the local international stores here don't sell them. As another post mentioned, if you use them in an Indian curry, it is YUMM. They are called brinjals in India.


On October 14, 2005 at 01:10 PM, an anonymous reader said...
well i don't know if u know it but there one recipe i would like to suggest:
take eggplant(baingan in hindi) n slightly roast it on coals or in a pan with little bit of oil.these roasted eggfruits taste better than anything else.add chopped onions,red chilli powder,salt and hot oil.really tasty.
ravi
banglore
india


On October 14, 2005 at 01:10 PM, an anonymous reader said...
nice but if roasted on wood charcoal these really taste good


On October 14, 2005 at 01:11 PM, an anonymous reader said...
soaking in salted water for about 20 minutes will remove the bitter taste


On October 14, 2005 at 01:11 PM, an anonymous reader said...
hi,
eggplant is very much declicious if you'll try this recep..
boil eggplant in hot water for about 20 minutes, after that take it off from the pan and remove the skins, flatten it and soak it in a scrambled raw egg until its fully coated....cook it in a pan using oil (fry)...

try it..its very delicious..
one of my best


On October 14, 2005 at 01:11 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I wonder where I've been all my life. I learned to (barbe)grill eggplant many years ago and prefer it. I have never had a problem with bitterness. I slice it, "paint" each slice with olive oil, use a gray salt, fresh ground black pepper, and grill over high heat for 5 minutes per side. Outstanding (say our friends).


On October 31, 2005 at 12:46 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: Eggplants
I had the impression the salt was to draw out some of the water content.


On December 14, 2005 at 03:27 PM, an anonymous reader said...
The unknown eggplant in the upper left corner looks like the variety "Listada de Gandia" an heirloom variety that has recently become popular for its taste and color. The picture here (seedsavers.org, an heirloom seed distributer) doesn't do the color justice. From what I have grown, it looks exactly like the one in your picture. Sadly, my harvest this last summer was very poor so I did not get nearly as much as I would have liked, but I will be growing again next year.


On February 01, 2006 at 08:41 AM, JasonTrue said...
Salting is only partially for extracting bitterness and for adding flavor to eggplant.

The more important contribution it makes to preparing eggplant is controlling how the cell walls collapse during cooking. If eggplant is salted before it is cooked, the texture is much more desirable, regardless of whether the eggplant is fried or braised.


On August 23, 2006 at 06:39 AM, an anonymous reader said...
I was a Fanatical Eggplant Salter for years, I would always cover the sliced eggplant with liberal quantities of salt for a quarter hour or so before cooking. That was until I had kids and didn't have quite as much time for those sort of shenanigans. So one day I just bunged them in the pan as they came, and they were fine. I've never salted again.

I've found that the only difference between salted and unsalted eggplants is that the salted ones are.. saltier.


On October 10, 2006 at 07:45 PM, Another Engineer (guest) said...
Subject: Eggplant Salting
Based upon all the books and cooking shows I've read and seen, salting is used to "extract" any excess moisture from the eggplant.

Also, I've found out recently that salt "dulls"/blocks the bitterness in foods (at the taste buds???). So the perception that salting draws out the bitter compounds may be a misconception... Instead the salting mask the bitter compounds... I need to do more research on this.

I personally don't salt eggplant... too much time and effort... and obtain good results.


On June 22, 2008 at 03:08 PM, Guest (guest) said...
Subject: to salt or not to salt - that is the question
It is my understanding that the bitterness lies in the skin - not the flesh - so removing the skin of older eggplants will cut the bitterness. Salt has no effect on bitterness - it is used to pull out the moisture.

It is important to get firm, shiny eggplant. If your eggplant is a little older - peel them - and proceed.


On September 15, 2008 at 01:07 AM, vanklimt (guest) said...
Subject: eggplant bitterness
in my 25 years of professional cooking experience (oooh ahhh) it seems to me that undercooked eggplant is bitter, properly cooked it is not. eggplant is not one of those vegetables that you cook "al dente".


On September 17, 2008 at 08:22 AM, caromish (guest) said...
Subject: eggplant taste test
The best way to prepare eggplant is to roast over charcoal until the skin blisters, and the flesh has softened; failing the barbecue a flame on the gas hob will do. Place eggplant in paper bag for five minutes to remove bitter skin the more easily, alternatively rinse under running tap but this renders the flesh slightly slimy and dilutes flavour; a few bits of charred skin are acceptable in the finished dish. Mash peeled soft eggplant with lemon juice which returns grey flesh to white again, add several tablespoons of taheina (sesame paste), salt, pepper, and crushed garlic, then mix thoroughly. Cover finished dish with a thin film of olive oil to prevent crust from forming. This dish is common throughout the Middle East, and has various names including motabbel and babaganoush.


On February 25, 2009 at 03:16 AM, an anonymous reader said...
awesome blog


On October 11, 2009 at 02:30 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Also, I've found out recently that salt "dulls"/blocks the bitterness in foods (at the taste buds???). So the perception that salting draws out the bitter compounds may be a misconception... Instead the salting mask the bitter compounds... I need to do more research on this.

It is my understanding that the bitterness lies in the skin - not the flesh - so removing the skin of older eggplants will cut the bitterness. Salt has no effect on bitterness - it is used to pull out the moisture.

No both of these comments are incorrect. The bitterness lies in the flesh, there are specific and known alkaloids causing it and osmotic pressure from salting removes most the alkaloids. The Alkaloids are not beneficial to either taste or nutrition.

Also not only does variety affect alkaloid level, but so does gender of the eggplant, age, and size. look at base indent to see if it is round or ovoid to determine sex. You want round which is male and has way fewer seeds and lower alkaloids.

Best salting method is to grab a grate, such as the grate from your microwave or toaster oven, put it in the sink, cut the eggplant into 3/4 inch slices, salt one side with kosher or table salt, let stand on grate for 15 minutes, turn over salt the other side, wait 30 minutes, turn over salt again wait 30 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly and AFTER rinsing squeeze slices like a sponge under running water (so when you let go alkaloids are rinsed off and not reabsorbed).


On October 28, 2009 at 10:50 AM, danicamoore said...
Anonymous wrote:
soaking in salted water for about 20 minutes will remove the bitter taste


probably yes. you can also toast eggplant though then mix it with some egg, then deep fry fatty yet delicious. my friend cook it and i love it.


On May 01, 2010 at 12:58 PM, an anonymous reader said...
The bitterness showed this time for the first time in all the times I have ever cooked eggplant using my familys secret recipe and after reading the above I realize it is also the first time I have ever undercooked it! Thanks mr/ms 25-year chef!


On May 14, 2010 at 04:03 AM, ron (guest) said...
Subject: eggplant
I love eggplant parmigiana, this blog and it's posted comments have helped me to understand this mysterious fruit. The idea of grilling it intrigues me. I tried it for a lady friend who a vegetarian and thought that worcestershire sauce would be a good flavoring, turns out that the eggplant slices (0.5") soaked it up like a sponge and made it inedible.


On August 11, 2010 at 09:26 PM, an anonymous reader said...
The eggplant to the right most edge of your photo, that you don't have a name for might be a variety called Ichiban.
But don't quote me on it, I wouldn't know for sure without actually seeing it


On November 01, 2010 at 07:32 AM, Barb B. (guest) said...
Subject: my favourite aubergine
Personally if I have a choice I always select the Sicilian eggplant--
light amethyst colour and shaped like a butt! The lighter colours seem to have more tender skin because they probably reflect more light off of them then the darker varieties. Oh, and if you've never made moussaka from scratch you have a real cooking experience ahead of you!


On November 26, 2010 at 09:55 PM, Ellen_Loves_to_Cook (guest) said...
Subject: White Eggplants
For a mild-tasting eggplant out of the gate, try white eggplant. It's mild, not bitter, and for those of you who are organic gardeners, it seems to be of no interest to the pests that bore into the dark eggplants.


On December 22, 2010 at 03:20 PM, dk (guest) said...
Subject: eggplant for vegetarians
FYI, to the poster who tried to use worcester sauce on the eggplant for a vegetarian friend, worcester sauce usually has anchovy paste in it and is therefore not vegetarian.

Newest favorite eggplant dish: napolean. Slice & cook the eggplant in a little bit of oil, layer (about 3 layers) with homemade putanesca sauce (onions, garlic, chillies, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, olives, capers, basil, salt, pepper), top with bread crumbs (cheese if you want, but I'm vegan) then bake until bread crumbs are crispy, approx 15-20 min.


On June 05, 2012 at 03:09 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I find the best way to ensure all the cubes of eggplant have an even amount of oil is to put them in a plastic bag with the oil coated on the sides of the bag(ziplock). Then put them directly on the pan.


On June 05, 2012 at 05:09 PM, Jim Cooley said...
Anonymous wrote:
I find the best way to ensure all the cubes of eggplant have an even amount of oil is to put them in a plastic bag with the oil coated on the sides of the bag(ziplock). Then put them directly on the pan.


Hey, that's smart!


On September 25, 2013 at 04:49 AM, bananajelly (guest) said...
Subject: Label the eggplants
This was interesting, but I had difficulty following which type of eggplant you were referring to every time you said it was good or bad. When you said upper right corner or lower right corner, I really had no idea which eggplant or photo you were referring to. Can you please label which eggplant is which?

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