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Taiwanese eggplants are cylindrical and oblong, growing up to 20 centimeters in length, and can be straight or crooked in shape. The thin outer skin is glossy, smooth, and lime to dark green with a brown-green calyx, or stem. The cream-colored inner flesh is spongy with very few, edible seeds. When cooked, Taiwanese eggplants are tender, mild, and slightly sweet.
Taiwanese eggplants are available year-round.
Taiwanese eggplant, botanically classified as Solanum melongena, is a broad category containing hundreds of eggplants with a wide range of fruit shapes and colors. They can range from oval and egg-shaped to long cylindrical and club-shaped with colors of white to green to striated. Taiwanese eggplants are a popular culinary ingredient used as a substitute for meat in main dishes and side dishes throughout China, Japan and India.
Taiwanese eggplants contain potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6
Taiwanese eggplants are best suited for cooked applications such as sautéing, steaming, baking, braising, stir-frying and grilling. Their sponge-like textural qualities allow them to easily take on bold and complex flavorings such as miso, ginger, yuzu, garlic, sesame oil, oyster sauce, bean sauce, and soy sauce. They can also be sliced into rounds and used in stir-fries, soups, or fried and served as a side dish. Taiwanese eggplants pair well with chilies, tomatoes, squash, grilled fish, clams, mussels, shrimp, duck, lentils, fermented beans, herbs such as basil, mint, cilantro, and parsley. Taiwanese eggplants will keep up to three days when stored in a cool and dry place.
In Taiwan, eggplants are grown year-round and are traditionally used in a dish known as fish fragrant eggplant, Sichuan eggplant, or in Chinese as yuxiang qiezi. Taiwanese cooking is heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine, especially from the Sichuan province in Southwestern China. Sichuan eggplant is a dish consisting of hot, sour, sweet, and salty flavors and uses soy sauce, chili bean paste, Sichuan pepper, and black vinegar. Despite the literal translation of "fish fragrant eggplant," there is no fish in the dish, and the name comes from the method of preparation using the flavorings as mentioned earlier.
Eggplants were introduced to Taiwan via strategic trade routes originating in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Considered to be an island crossroad between many Asian countries, Taiwan used the original eggplants obtained from other parts of Asia and created new cultivated varieties. Today Taiwanese eggplants can be found at farmers markets in Asia and select specialty grocers in Europe and the United States.