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How to make great fried eggplant? No breadcrumbs

We had lunch two days in a row at our wonderful local Southern buffet place. They had fried eggplant, which I'd never seen there before. It was WONDERFUL! It had a very light, crispy batter coating and was very sweet. It was almost like tempura.

I can't figure out how they did it and in HUGE quantities for the after-church rush!

There were no breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs. It was just a very light, crispy batter coating.
I think it must've been deep fried, as I can't imagine they could pan fry it in those quantities. Though, they were only putting out about one eggplant worth of slices at a time, so maybe it was pan fried?

(This place serves an amazing number of covers, especially on the weekends. It's always interesting to peek into the spotlessly clean kitchen and see an ARMY of cooks, all working calmly at their stations. Today, they had at least 10 different veg, baked and fried chicken, ham, two types of fish, chicken and dumplings, wonderful rolls and cornbread, salads and desserts!)

When I've tried to do something similar with eggplant, I've always had issues with the batter sliding off.

I want to make more of this wonderful eggplant, while I can get my hands on some beautiful ones!

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  1. I dip eggplant slices in a 50%/50% water/egg solution, then dredge in seasoned flour and deep-fry. It ain't batter but it's good.

    1. use the salting trick to draw excess moisture out of the eggplant slices before dipping them in any batter - that should help prevent the batter from sliding off. for a really airy, crisp result, use a tempura batter recipe that calls for club soda.

      1. 2 eggs and a 1/4 cup milk scrambled together with fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of sea salt is how I do it when I'm not using flour or breadcrumbs.

        1. A beer batter, buttermilk soaking or a soy protein "bath" will all result in a lighter crust sans bread.

          1. One other trick I've cited before: start your eggplant coins or disks (I usually salt, sweat, and press first) with a little oil. once that is absorbed, you can add a bit of water once or twice until the eggplant has completely "sauteed". Comes out light and fresher tasting, but with that sauteed in lots of oil richness.

            1. Here's a link to a marvelous recipe for fried eggplant from "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen."


              My mom adores eggplant, I was visiting her this past weekend, I'd made it for her before, and she asked for it again. The batter contains both rice and AP flour as well as cornstarch, and although it's not sweet, it's the most wonderfully crispy coating you could imagine. I made it with Chinese eggplant, so no salting is necessary. But I've made it with regular eggplant as well and it's every bit as good. The amazing thing about this recipe is that unlike any other fried foods I've ever made, the leftovers crisp up brilliantly with just a few minutes in a toaster oven.

              Because it is an Asian recipe, I serve it with a dipping sauce of fish sauce, water, garlic, and chiles. But it would still be excellent without the dipping sauce.

              1. Slice half inch thick, dip in beaten egg, then parm. then toss into a well-greased wafflemaker. Seriously. Amazing.

                4 Replies
                1. re: scuzzo

                  Scuzzo's method is indeed wonderful! In my cheapo electric wafflemaker, I find I need to slice not more than 3/8" thick in order to get a nice creamy interior. For eggplant parmesan, just brush rounds with olive oil and waffle them, first, which makes a more virtuous casserole than breaded/fried eggplant.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    The waffle technique is fantastic! I tried a few slices with a little olive oil and cheese and a few with just oil. Both were delicious with great texture. The cheese got that dark fried cheese taste - suddenly eggplant parmesan or involtini seems hassle free. Thanks Scuzzo and GG!

                    1. re: cinnamon girl

                      So glad to have made another convert to Scuzzo's method. You might want to try this as a garnish for a salad of mesclun, frisee, or other bitter greens: just put tablespoon-sized mounds of shredded hard cheese on the wafflemaker (no oil needed, at least for a teflon model), and waffle them till they are dark golden brown. Top the salad with them while they are still warm, or float them on top of tomato soup. You're welcome ;-D

                      1. re: greygarious

                        absolutely inspired! Thanks - I'll give it a shot.

                2. Most Southern fried eggplant I see is breaded (corn meal, flour, etc.) and fried... For those that are battered....I think any variation and theme on a tempura would work --- For high volume frying... battering and deep frying would be the method of choice. I love eggplant "French Fries""

                  1. Don't salt to remove moisture from eggplant. They'll get tough and chewy.

                    The opposite effect is best - Cut the slices and then brine them for 30 minutes or so in a standard bring. Then pat dry and rest on paper towels. Make up a batter half way between "pancake" and crepe. Dredge and pan fry. We do this all the time at home.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: KiltedCook

                      That's funny. I think its a matter of preference. Some would call a softer eggplant "mushy" and prefer the chewier as having the better texture.

                    2. Try it Sam... you'll never go back to The Dark Side <grin>

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: KiltedCook

                        I've been salting eggplant for 30 years. Always silky. I don't use any flour or batter or crumbs when I saute.

                        1. re: KiltedCook

                          Will do. How much oil do you put in that pan?

                        2. I could see a crispy tempura batter working, might even try it this week.

                          But being from the South there is nothing like fried eggplant with bread crumbs, the only thing I do different from my grandmothers is add parmesan cheese to the bread crumbs. And I also cut the eggplant really thin, my husband calls the eggplant chips

                          I also love roasted eggplant.

                          1. I grew up eating fried yellow squash prepared only ever 2 ways. If my mom had time and it wasn't too hot she would flour-egg-cornmeal them and pan fry in a single layer resulting in super crispy, lovely little coins. Amazing. If it was hot that day and she didn't want to stand over the stove, or if she needed it to be faster, she'd make a standard batter, essentially a thin pancake batter, dip, and deep fry. Later, in the 90's sometime, she incorporated zucchini and eggplant into the mix, always treating it exactly like the yellow squash.

                            1. slice 3/4 inch thick.
                              make batter. one egg per tablespoon flour and a little water.
                              shake off excess batter
                              only olive oil will do to fry.
                              use a fry pan that heats evenly.
                              salt and a tiny shake of garlic granules on each slice.
                              bet you cant stop eating these.