This dish embodies the simplicity of Thai cuisine,” says Brandon Kahlich of the Noble Pig. “It is balanced with flavors that are sweet, salty, and spicy — quick to prepare and so easily adaptable to adding or changing proteins for anybody to enjoy.” He adds that it also has the benefit of being “healthy, as well as filling enough to win over vegetarians and carnivores at the same table.” Kahlich and his Thai wife, Parinda, are the chefs/proprietors of the restaurant at 19222 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe Farms.
Phad Makua Yao: Eggplant with Tofu and Basil (Serves 2)
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 fresh Thai chilies, stems removed, crushed open with side of knife
1 small white onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 to 3 Japanese eggplants, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups fried tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces*
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, picked from stems, rinsed lightly
2 tablespoons palm sugar (white or brown sugar may be substituted)
2 tablespoons white soy sauce (Thai or Vietnamese soy-based sauce, often made with shiitake mushrooms)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
Heat a medium to large wok to just below smoking point. Add half of the vegetable oil, and swirl wok to coat sides. Add garlic, fresh chilies, and onion. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring and turning to coat items, watching not to burn. Add eggplant and continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes more (add a bit more oil if items begin to stick or dry out). Add the tofu and basil. Stir to combine. Cook just 1 minute more. Lastly, add sugar, both soy sauces, and oyster sauce. Toss all together, coating all with the wet ingredients. Adjust seasonings as needed and remove to serving bowl.
Phad Makua Yao is traditionally served with steamed jasmine rice and freshly cut chilled cucumbers on the side.
*Other proteins may be substituted, such as sliced or chopped pork, chicken, or beef.