This is an “eggplant caviar” if you will, a spicy-sweet-tart purée of eggplant that beguiles even those who think they hate eggplant. One of the first dishes I ever made, it has become a China Moon hallmark. Served in tiny bowls ringed by crispy garlic croutons, it is the amuse-guele (throat-tickler) we send to all our guests.
Unlike traditional Chinese eggplant dishes, which are steamed or fried, this one is baked. It makes it easy and texturally interesting. I use Western eggplant purposely here for its slightly bitter edge! The sweeter Chinese and Japanese varieties taste wimpy in this dish.
The eggplant is most flavorful when made in advance and it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. The croutons are sublime when eaten freshly baked and merely excellent done a day in advance and stored at room temperature with an airtight seal.