Eggplant Dal

eggplant dal

I think this was one of the most delicious things I've ever made. Seriously. Maybe it was that it was just what I needed in the midst of all the winter food. Or, maybe it reminded me of warm, tropical vacations of years gone by. I don't know. What I do know is that this simple dish, ready in under an hour, made me incredibly happy.

Sate (or satay) is a South East Asian dish of meat or seafood grilled on skewers and served with some kind of dipping sauce.  This sate, cooked on aromatic lemongrass stalks, was inspired by a meal I ate in an open air barbecue restaurant in Saigon, Vietnam. On that evening, the sate, noodles, pickles and vegetables were served on separate plates and we piled them all into fresh lettuce cups and doused them in spicy, salty nuoc cham sauce. 

My version stays true to the one I ate in Vietnam except that I've opted to serve it as a salad instead of in lettuce wraps - mostly for practical reasons. The addition of pineapple is my own and, while optional, really adds a delicious sweetness and brightness that I wouldn't change. 

There's nothing else to say. Just make this and eat it. You won't regret it.










2 stalks lemongrass

400g shrimp - peeled and cleaned and VERY well dried

1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

3 tbsp thai basil

1 clove garlic - minced 

zest of one lime

1 green chilli 

1/2 tsp salt

pinch of sugar

1/4 tsp black or white pepper

Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

1/4 cup fish sauce 

1/4 cup water

juice of one lime

1/2 tsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1 clove garlic - finely minced

1 red thai chilli - minced


1 large or 2 small carrots - peeled and julienned

1/2 daikon radish - julienned

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp chilli flakes


1 package dried rice stick vermicelli 

shredded lettuce

sliced radishes

julienned cucumber

chopped pineapple

chopped green and red chillies

thai basil



lime wedges


1. To make dipping sauce, combine fish sauce, water, lime juice, sugar, salt, garlic and chilli in a bowl. taste and adjust seasoning to your liking (more sugar, more chilli) and set aside. sauce should be salty, sour and slightly sweet. 

2. place rice stick noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. let sit until softened - approx 20 minutes. drain, rinse with cold water, toss with a small amount of oil (to prevent sticking) and set aside.

3. to make pickles, place carrots, daikon, vinegar, water, salt, sugar and chilli flakes in a small pot. bring to a boil and turn off the heat. let sit for 10 minutes. drain and lightly rinse with cold water. set aside. 

4. cut each lemongrass stalk into three pieces and peel off any loose layers.

5. in a food processor, add shrimp, coconut, garlic, basil, lime zest, green or red chilli, sugar, salt and pepper. pulse until the mixture is coarse and combined - do not puree. the mixture should be sticky.

6. rub a little oil between your hands and press a small handful of the shrimp mixture around the top of each lemongrass stalk. set finished satays on a lightly oiled plate. 

7.  grill satays on a hot bbq grill (or indoor grill pan) until charred and cooked through - around 7 or 8 minutes.

8. serve with rice noodles and garnish with fresh vegetables, pineapple, pickled carrots and daikon. top with nuoc cham sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.