Ultimate Guide to Making and Storing Vietnamese Pickled Eggplant

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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We’ve always been fascinated by the vibrant flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, and today, we’re diving into a lesser-known gem: Vietnamese pickled eggplant. This dish, with its tangy and slightly spicy taste, is a staple in many Vietnamese households, yet it remains a delightful discovery for many of us.

Vietnamese pickled eggplant is not just a side dish; it’s a celebration of simplicity and flavor. Made with just a handful of ingredients, it transforms the humble eggplant into something truly extraordinary. Whether you’re a fan of pickling or looking to explore Vietnamese cuisine, this recipe is a must-try. It’s perfect for adding a zesty kick to your meals or enjoying as a snack on its own. Join us as we explore how to bring this traditional Vietnamese delight into your kitchen.

Ingredients

Diving into the vibrant world of Vietnamese pickled eggplant, we’re excited to share with you the simple, yet flavorful ingredients that make this dish a zesty celebration. Whether you’re a pickling pro or a newcomer to the art, these ingredients will bring the unique charm of Vietnamese cuisine right to your kitchen.

Pickling Ingredients

For the pickling solution, which will infuse our eggplants with tangy and slightly spicy flavors, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili, finely sliced (adjust based on your heat preference)
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger (optional for an extra zing)

These ingredients will be combined and heated gently, allowing the flavors to meld together, creating a pickling liquid that’s both aromatic and flavorful.

Eggplant Preparation

Let’s prepare our star ingredient:

  • 4 medium-sized eggplants (preferably the long, slim variety which is more common in Vietnamese cuisine)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (for drawing out the bitterness)

The eggplants will be sliced, salted, and then rinsed to ensure they’re perfectly prepped for pickling. This process not only enhances their flavor but also helps them absorb the pickling solution better, resulting in eggplants that are tangy, slightly crunchy, and bursting with flavor.

Required Tools and Equipment

To embark on your journey of creating Vietnamese pickled eggplant, having the right tools and equipment is as vital as the ingredients themselves. Let’s dive into the essentials you’ll need to ensure your pickling process is smooth, efficient, and successful.

Sharp Knife

The first tool on our list is a sharp knife. This is crucial for thinly and uniformly slicing the eggplant, which not only impacts the texture but also how well the eggplant pieces absorb the pickling solution. A sharp knife makes prep work safer and more enjoyable.

Cutting Board

A sturdy cutting board provides a safe and stable surface for slicing your eggplant and preparing other ingredients such as garlic, chili, and ginger. We recommend using a separate cutting board for your produce to avoid cross-contamination.

Salt

While not a tool in the traditional sense, salt plays a critical role in the pickling process. It helps to draw out excess moisture from the eggplant, enhancing the texture and enabling it to absorb the flavors of the pickling solution more effectively.

Glass Jars with Lids

For storing your Vietnamese pickled eggplant, glass jars with tight-fitting lids are essential. They should be sterilized before use to prevent the introduction of any unwanted bacteria into your pickles. Glass is preferred over plastic as it won’t absorb flavors or odors, keeping your eggplant tasting fresh.

Large Bowl

A large bowl is needed for salting and rinsing the eggplant. This step is crucial for drawing out moisture and ensuring the eggplant slices have the perfect texture once pickled.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Accurate measurements are key to achieving the perfect balance of flavors in your pickling solution. Therefore, a set of measuring cups and spoons is indispensable. They will help you measure out the water, vinegar, sugar, and other ingredients precisely.

Saucepan

A saucepan is required to heat the pickling solution. Bringing the water, vinegar, and sugar to a boil ensures that the sugar dissolves completely and the flavors meld together beautifully before being poured over the eggplant slices.

Colander

After salting, the eggplant slices need to be thoroughly rinsed under cold water. A colander will allow you to rinse all slices evenly and drain the excess water effortlessly.

Preparation

We’re excited to guide you through the steps of creating Vietnamese pickled eggplant, ensuring a perfect batch of this tangy, crunchy delight. Let’s begin!

Washing and Cutting the Eggplant

First, grab your fresh eggplants and rinse them under cool running water to remove any dirt. It’s essential to use a sharp knife and a stable cutting board for this next part. We’ll slice the eggplants into approximately 1/2 inch thick rounds. If you prefer, you can also cut them into spears or cubes, depending on your preference. The key here is to ensure the pieces are uniform in size to pickle evenly.

Salting the Eggplant

After cutting, it’s time to draw out the moisture, which will help in achieving that perfectly crunchy texture. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the eggplant pieces and toss them in a large bowl to ensure they’re evenly coated. Let them sit for about 30 minutes. You’ll notice the eggplants begin to sweat as the salt draws out water. This step is crucial for the pickling process, as it not only seasons the eggplant but also helps in preserving their texture. After 30 minutes, use a colander to rinse the eggplant slices under cold water to remove the excess salt, and then pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel. This prepares them perfectly for the next step in the pickling adventure.

Mixing the Pickling Solution

After ensuring our eggplants are perfectly prepped, it’s time to create the heart of our pickling process: the pickling solution. This mixture is what will infuse our eggplants with that tangy, unforgettable flavor.

Preparing the Vinegar Solution

To start, we’ll need to combine the following ingredients in a medium saucepan:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

We’ll bring these components to a boil over medium heat, ensuring the sugar and salt fully dissolve into the liquid. This process should take around 2-3 minutes. Once everything is dissolved, we turn off the heat. This hot vinegar solution is the base for our pickling liquid, perfectly balanced with sweetness and sharpness to enhance the subtle flavors of the eggplant.

Adding Flavorings

For the personal touch that elevates our pickled eggplant from good to exceptional. We’ll add the following flavorings directly into the vinegar solution:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole dried chili peppers (optional for a spicy kick)
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

These aromatics should be added while the solution is hot, allowing their flavors to meld beautifully as the solution cools. We give the mixture a gentle stir to evenly distribute the spices.

Allowing the solution to cool before pouring it over our prepared eggplants ensures they remain crisp, retaining a delightful crunch that’s a hallmark of high-quality pickled vegetables. Once cooled, our pickling solution is ready to work its magic, transforming ordinary eggplants into a vibrant, flavorful Vietnamese delicacy.

Pickling the Eggplant

Embarking on the pickling journey transforms the eggplant into a savory, tangy delight that captivates the palate. We carefully layer our tender slices of eggplant with the homemade pickling solution, sealing in the vibrant flavors.

Layering Eggplant and Pickling Solution

After ensuring our eggplants are perfectly prepared and our pickling solution has cooled to room temperature, we begin the assembly. In clean, sterile glass jars, we start by adding a layer of eggplant slices, packing them snugly but with care to avoid squishing. Between the layers, we sprinkle in our chosen spices — garlic slices, peppercorns, chili peppers, and coriander seeds, distributing them evenly to ensure each bite is infused with flavor.

Carefully, we pour the cooled pickling solution over the eggplants, allowing the liquid to seep through the layers and fill the jar, leaving about a half-inch of space at the top. It’s a mesmerizing process, watching the clear solution gently envelop the eggplants and spices, promising a delicious outcome.

Sealing and Storing

With our jars filled and the vibrant layers of eggplant submerged in the tangy solution, we move to seal them. Ensuring the jar rims are clean, we tightly screw on the lids, securing the freshness and flavors within. The magic of pickling begins now, as the eggplants embark on their transformation.

For the flavors to meld and the eggplants to become perfectly pickled, we store the jars in a cool, dark place. The waiting is the hardest part, as anticipation builds. However, patience is key — we typically allow at least 48 hours, though a week is ideal for achieving the full depth of flavor.

Once our Vietnamese pickled eggplants have reached their peak, we store them in the refrigerator to halt the pickling process. This ensures they maintain their crisp texture and tangy taste, ready to be savored as a condiment or side dish that adds a burst of flavor to any meal.

Serving Suggestions

After meticulously preparing and patiently waiting for your Vietnamese pickled eggplant to reach its peak of tanginess and flavor, it’s finally time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. These pickled delights are versatile and can elevate a simple meal into something spectacular. Here’s how we love to serve them.

As a Side Dish

Nothing complements a meal quite like a tangy, crisp side dish. Serve these eggplants alongside your favorite grilled meats or tofu for a refreshing contrast to smoky flavors. Not only do they add a vibrant burst of color to your plate, but their unique taste awakens the palate, preparing it for the richness of the main course.

In Banh Mi

Elevate your traditional Vietnamese banh mi by adding slices of our pickled eggplant for an extra tangy crunch. Its acidic brightness cuts through the richness of pork, pâté, or whatever fillings you favor, adding a layer of complexity that makes each bite even more satisfying.

With Rice Dishes

Introduce the pickled eggplant as a side to complement rice dishes. The tanginess of the eggplant balances the mellow, earthy flavors of rice, especially when paired with other dishes like caramelized pork or fried fish. This combination leaves a delightful sensation on the palate that is both refreshing and deeply satisfying.

As Part of a Charcuterie or Cheese Board

Get creative by including Vietnamese pickled eggplant on your next charcuterie or cheese board. Its distinctive flavor profile contrasts beautifully against creamy cheeses and rich meats. Arrange slices or whole pickled eggplants amidst the board’s offerings, allowing guests to discover their unique, tangy charm.

Make-Ahead Instructions

After diving into the delicious world of Vietnamese pickled eggplant and exploring various ways to serve this tangy delight, it’s time to talk about how you can prepare this dish in advance. This step is crucial for those of us who like to plan our meals ahead or want to ensure the flavors are perfectly melded for an enhanced taste experience.

Preparing the Eggplant

First, it’s essential to follow the initial preparation steps as usual. Slice the eggplants, layer them with the spices, and place them in sterilized jars. The key is to prepare these components with care, ensuring the eggplant slices are evenly cut for consistent pickling and that the jars are properly sterilized to prevent any bacterial growth.

Creating the Pickling Solution

Next, prepare the pickling solution as instructed in the main recipe. The blend of vinegar, water, sugar, and salt should be boiled and then allowed to cool slightly. This solution is what will infuse the eggplant with its distinctive tangy and slightly sweet flavor profile. The cooling step before pouring ensures that the eggplant slices maintain their texture and do not become too soft during the pickling process.

Storing for Flavor Melding

Once the jars are filled and sealed, the magic of pickling begins. However, when you’re making this ahead of time, it’s important to give the eggplant enough time to fully pick up the flavors. We recommend letting the jars sit in a cool, dark place for at least a week before opening. This duration allows the spices and the pickling solution to deeply penetrate the eggplant, creating a more complex and rounded flavor profile.

For those who plan even further ahead, note that Vietnamese pickled eggplant can be stored for up to a month or more, making it a perfect make-ahead ingredient that improves with time. Just remember to check the seals on your jars for safety and store them in a place away from direct sunlight to preserve their color and flavor.

Quick Tips for Busy Cooks

For those short on time, a minimum of 48 hours in the pickling solution can suffice for a quick pickle effect. While the flavors won’t be as developed as they would over a longer period, it still delivers a delightful tang and can be a great last-minute addition to your meals.

Storage and Shelf Life

After crafting the perfect Vietnamese pickled eggplant, proper storage is key to maintaining its quality and extending its shelf life. Let’s dive into the best practices for keeping your pickles crisp and flavorful.

Short-Term Storage

For those planning to consume the pickled eggplant within a few weeks, short-term storage in the refrigerator is ideal. Ensure the eggplant slices are fully submerged in the pickling solution to prevent any potential spoilage. We recommend using a clean, airtight glass jar for storage. This way, your pickled eggplant can last in the refrigerator for up to a month. During this period, the flavors will continue to meld, yielding a richer taste experience with every bite. It’s important to use a clean utensil each time you serve the eggplant to keep the contents uncontaminated and extend shelf life.

Long-Term Storage

For those looking to extend the pleasure of enjoying their Vietnamese pickled eggplant, long-term storage methods come in handy. While the pickled eggplant we’ve made doesn’t lend itself to traditional canning processes due to its delicate nature, it can still be preserved for several months. After the initial week in a cool, dark place, move your jars to the back of the refrigerator. This cooler environment slows down the fermentation process, allowing you to enjoy your pickled eggplant for up to 2-3 months. Always ensure the eggplant remains submerged in the pickling solution, and the jar is sealed tightly. Remember, the key to long-term storage success is minimizing exposure to air and contaminants, so handle your pickled eggplants with care.

Conclusion

We’ve walked through the delightful journey of making and storing Vietnamese pickled eggplant, from choosing the right ingredients to ensuring it’s savored at its best. Remember, the secret lies in the balance of flavors and the care taken in storage. Whether you’re enjoying it within a month or savoring it over a few, these tips will help you keep your pickled eggplant delicious. So go ahead, give it a try, and let the tangy, spicy flavors transport you straight to the heart of Vietnamese cuisine. Here’s to many more culinary adventures together!

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