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Tasting Eggplants

Can the four most common varieties of eggplant be used interchangeably in recipes?

Four of the most common varieties of eggplant found in the supermarket are large globe, small Italian, slender Chinese, and apple-shaped Thai. Can they all be used interchangeably in recipes? To find out, we prepared each type in five dishes calling for different cooking methods: roasted and pureed in baba ghanoush, sautéed in Pasta alla Norma, baked in eggplant Parmesan, braised in Thai curry, and stir-fried with sweet chili-garlic sauce. Only the generously sized globe eggplant was a true multitasker, suitable for all dishes and responding well to all cooking methods. The smaller varieties were prevented by their size from being good choices in eggplant Parmesan, and their excessive amount of seeds made for overly coarse baba ghanoush. The Thai eggplant, with its crisp, applelike texture, was notable for tasting bright, grassy, and appealing simply eaten raw.

Globe: Best All-Around

  • Texture: very tender; watery
  • Flavor: mild
  • Best Uses: roasting, pureeing, baking, sauteing, braising, stir-frying

Italian: Spicy but Seedy

  • Texture: moderately moist; lots of seeds
  • Flavor: spicy
  • Best Uses: sauteing, braising, stir-frying

Chinese: Sweet and Dry

  • Texture: somewhat dry, firm interior; lots of seeds
  • Flavor: intense, slightly sweet
  • Best Uses: sauteing, braising, stir-frying

Thai: Bright and Grassy

  • Texture: crisp and relatively dry,; lots of seeds
  • Flavor: bright and grassy, with hints of spice
  • Best Uses: sauteing, braising, stir-frying, raw

GLOBE: Best all-around

ITALIAN: Spicy but seedy

CHINESE: Sweet and dry

THAI: Bright and grassy

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