We found this recipe a number of years ago when we were looking for ways to use eggplant, and this just sounded delicious. Imagine, crispy, slightly smoky, eggplant strips. What’s not to like, right? In fact, the original recipe called it eggplant bacon, but, to us, that’s like saying that the County Fair is Disneyland. Both are good, but they’re definitely different. Same with these crispy eggplant strips; they’re good, but no one will think it’s bacon.
This recipe comes from a small paperback, Vegan Junk Food, by Lane Gold, which has over 200 easy-to-prepare recipes that are mostly of the snack-y variety. We happen to think that if you’re going to be eating junk food, you should make it yourself — from scratch, of course. That way, you’ll at least avoid all those additives and artificial colors, plus you’re unlikely to make up a whole bag of Doritos. Oh, and we did modify the recipe a bit from the original.
Makes a bunch.
You’d think that something labeled soy sauce would be just that, soy sauce, but, for at least one of the major brands, that apparently means salt water and caramel color. Instead of buying the most common brand, try to find a brand that’s truly made from fermented soy beans. We use San-J brand Tamari, which we like, but you should try a couple of brands and find one you like. Now, the recipe called for apple cider vinegar, but we didn’t have any, so we used plain white vinegar. The type of oil isn’t critical; any light oil, such as canola, would work. Finally, the liquid smoke really adds a lot of flavor, so we strongly suggest that you don’t omit it.
Procedure in detail:
Make marinade. Get out a large mixing bowl, preferably one that’s rather shallow, and whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, oil, pepper and liquid smoke. That’s it for the marinade.
Slice eggplant. This is trickier, because the slices need to be very thin. We find that if you slice off the end, or even both ends, you can hold the eggplant upright and kinda shave off slices. As you slice off pieces, place them in the marinade. If you have a mandoline, this is the perfect time to use it for nice even slices.
Marinate. You want all those tasty flavors to seep into the eggplant, so set everything in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours. Take it out about once an hour to flip and turn eggplant so all the pieces get plenty of time in the marinade.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. We don’t recommend silicone baking mats because they’re likely to absorb some of the strong flavors from the marinade.
Arrange. Place eggplant slices on the prepared sheets. They can be very close, or even just touching, but they should not overlap. They will shrink a bit as they bake, but, if they overlap, you’ll have some soggy spots (you’ll probably have some, anyway).
Bake. Slide the sheets into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is lightly crisped and browned.
Serve immediately. You can use these pretty much anywhere you might like a nice smoky flavor added, or you can eat them plain. As they cool, they might get a bit soggy, so they’re best hot.
This recipe does use a lot of eggplant all at one whack. That’s the upside. The downside is that they do get soggy as they cool, resulting in the strips losing that nice, crisp bite. Overall, they’re pretty good, and we’d recommend this as a new way to try eggplant, but we can’t say that it’s our favorite, mainly because of the effort involved in slicing the eggplant so thin, and having to watch carefully while baking to prevent burning. Let’s give ’em three stars.