This Thai grilled eggplant salad recipe makes a delightful dish of smoky pieces of creamy eggplant with sweet red shallots, aromatic mint, the umami of fish sauce, a sublime soft-boiled egg, and a kick of chilli. This salad is best when the eggplant is straight from the grill or barbecue, and combined with the other ingredients just before serving.
Light, fragrant and flavourful, this Thai salad of smoky grilled eggplant with shallots, mint, chilli powder, and a soft-boiled egg makes a fantastic side dish, one of an array of dishes if you’re cooking up a Thai feast, or a filling main course if you add a five-minute egg and a bowl of jasmine rice, as we did yesterday.
You won’t find this David Thompson dish on a cookie-cutter Thai restaurant menu so if you’re craving good Thai food as much as we have been lately – ah, we’d give anything to be able to hop on a plane to Thailand and dine at David Thompson’s restaurant Aksorn in Bangkok – then you’ll need to make this smoky grilled eggplant salad yourself.
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Now let me tell you about this Thai grilled eggplant salad recipe.
Thai Grilled Eggplant Salad Recipe with Red Shallots, Fragrant Mint and Soft-Boiled Eggs
You’re unlikely to find this smoky Thai grilled eggplant salad at your neighbourhood Thai restaurant if it has a cookie-cutter Thai menu of satay sticks, fish cakes, and red and green Thai curries. If you’re Australian, you may remember it from David Thompson’s Sailor’s Thai restaurant in Sydney back in the day. Or you may have tried it at Nahm restaurant in Bangkok.
You might also have spotted David Thompson’s Thai eggplant salad recipe in his Thai Food cookbook. Thompson calls the dish yam makreua yao in his Thai Food cookbook, although you’ll mostly see ‘eggplant salad’ spelled as yam makeua yao (no ‘r’) – a ‘yam’ is salad and ‘makeua’ is eggplant. You’ll also see it spelled as: yum makeua yao, yum makua yao, and yum ma kua yao if you’re doing further research. It’s ยำมะเขือ in Thai.
This smoky eggplant salad recipe is not the same as the roasted eggplant and chilli relish recipe we’ve seen floating around on the Internet attributed to chef Martin Boetz, with which it sometimes appears to be confused. Martin worked for David and was also the culinary director of the very successful Longrain restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.
You’ll apparently find that recipe published in the mid-2000s mouthful of a cookbook, Modern Thai Food: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes from Sydney’s Famous Longrain Restaurant by Martin Boetz. That eggplant dish falls into the nam prik category of dips and relishes, which I mentioned yesterday when I shared a recipe for nam prik ong, a minced pork and tomato dip from Northern Thailand.
David Thompson’s smoky grilled Thai eggplant salad recipe makes a much milder and more subtly-flavoured dish that can be eaten on its own, with jasmine rice, or as one of an array of dishes if you’re cooking up a Thai feast, but not as a dip.
Tips to Making This Thai Grilled Eggplant Salad Recipe
Just a few tips for making this Thai grilled eggplant salad recipe. Firstly, you must use either long green Thai eggplants or long purple Japanese eggplants. Other eggplants will not give the same texture or flavour. Secondly, the eggplants must be done over a barbecue or grill to get the smoky notes that make this dish stand out.
We use eco-friendly coconut shell charcoal BBQ briquettes for our traditional clay brazier on the balcony, which we grill the eggplants on, as they do not smoke and ash as much as traditional charcoal, and they will stay hot enough to cook with for a couple of hours.
You do not want super high heat for this as the outside of the eggplants will char before the flesh softens and takes in the smoky aromas. You do, however, want the skin to get to the wrinkly brown stage. This helps separate the skin from the flesh after cooking.
While the eggplant is on the barbecue, do the rest of the preparation. Pay particular attention to the red shallots (which look pink, we know), as you want half moon rounds of very thin slices, because if they’re too thick they will spoil the subtle flavour of the eggplant.
Add lime juice first to your Thai grilled eggplant salad, then add the fish sauce and taste. If it tastes a tad bland, then you have not added enough fish sauce to season the dish. We always add more than we suggest as we’re fish sauce lovers. We recommend using Megachef Thai fish sauce as it has the most consistent salinity levels of the Thai brands.
While David Thompson’s Thai grilled eggplant salad recipe calls for steamed eggs, we prefer runny soft-boiled eggs done for five and a half minutes.
Dried shrimp are a big deal in Southeast Asian cooking with lots of different sizes and grades of shrimp. You can easily find these at Asian supermarkets. Look for bright orange dried shrimp. If the dried shrimps are brown, they are probably old and would have lost a lot of their flavour. We like the small shrimps for this Thai grilled eggplant salad and we like to give them a little heat before pounding them in a mortar and pestle until they’re close to a powder but still remain flaky and have texture.
Thai Grilled Eggplant Salad Recipe
- 4 long green or Japanese eggplants
- 2 tbsp mint leaves
- 2 red shallots very thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp spring onions chopped finely
- ½ tsp roasted chilli powder
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp fish sauce to taste
- ½ tsp ground dried prawns shrimp
- 1 Piece five-minute boiled egg
- Grill the eggplants on a BBQ with medium heat until the exterior is charred and soft.
- Cover and allow to cool before peeling.
- In a bowl, add the eggplant and all the other ingredients apart from the dried prawns and the egg and mix.
- Taste for seasoning and add more fish sauce as necessary.
- Arrange on a serving plate, place the egg on the side and sprinkle over the dried shrimp.
Please do let us know if you make this Thai grilled eggplant salad recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you. We’d also love a rating if you have a minute.
Terrence, been searching for this recipe for years since we fell in love with it at Nahm. Did not think to look in Thai Food! Made it on the weekend and it was fantastic. Definitely making this again. Thank you!
Terence Carter says
Hi Denise, I’ve seen a few people mention that they ate this at Nahm in the past, I think David may have taken it off the menu a few years before he left. It’s a great dish, glad you enjoyed it!
David Goose says
I’ve had similar in north east Thailand made by a regular Thai Mum. I remember it called as “soob makua “ can you correct me ?
Lara Dunston says
Hi David, oh how I’d love to tuck into a dish of this made by a regular Thai mum in Isaan now. Any food in Isaan actually! ‘Soob’ means ‘to smoke’, so that would be ‘to smoke eggplant’. Have a listen to this on Google translate: สูบมะเขือยาว – that’s it, right? Was her’s like a salad or more like a relish?