Last year in Laos, I got myself in a bit of a quandry when I came across some eggplants being burnt to a frazzle. Completely charred - enough to sketch a scene of the nearby Mekong with - I couldn't possibly imagine how they were going to return to an edible state. At the time, witchcraft and potions, even toothpaste got offered up as suggestions but nothing particularly culinary came to light.
Until Manivan Larprom weighed into the impasse with a definitive answer.
A second trip to Laos along with knowledge gained from another Laos-phile gave further insight into the digestible uses of this very attractive vegetable. In my country of origin, up until about thirty years ago, the average home cook wouldn't have known what to do with one - unless they had mates from the Mediterranean or thereabouts. I first came across them in moussaka, the Greek dish, and thought them quite odd. I've since acquired the taste for their complex properties and flavours.
The stunning variety of eggplants in Asia make them a versatile bit of veg in this region. They're seared and pounded into pastes; deep fried whole, cut and topped with minced pork and fish sauce; eaten small as a fruit with the watercress and cucumber alongside laap; or pickled and dipped in fish sauce as part of a Vietnamese rice lunch.
I'm sure the possibilities don't stop there.