As these glorious pops of baby eggplants are slowly roasting away in a sweet, yet tart homemade tamarind sauce, prepare the burgundy tipped red oak lettuce, crunchy pomegranate arils and sweet fresh raspberries. What a feast!
Why I Love Roasted Tamarind Eggplant Salad
Eggplant is a fruit I grew up with, but I mainly ate them in a curry or stir-fried in a chilli paste, which by the way, my mother reigns supreme!
Adding them to curries or a curry laksa changes the entire dish. Nothing better than picking up a soft eggplant that has made the perfect vessel to absorb all the soup or sauce.
One bite and it all bursts into your mouth with great satisfaction.
My second most favourite way to eat eggplant is the Japanese way. The very first time I tried Nasu dengaku (miso-glazed eggplant), I was in love. Eating the miso laden soft flesh with steaming hot rice is a glorious experience.
Inspired by basting a thick sauce on an eggplant, I thought I’d try my own tamarind sauce as something a little different.
I felt like a sweet and tart flavour that would be quite intense, and I knew the eggplant would absorb it well. The results of the tamarind eggplant were better than I had expected!
This vegetarian salad recipe is also perfect for the holiday season. If you’re after something a little different for your Christmas table, this is your best bet!
What Is Eggplant?
Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family Solanaceae, and this plant species are grown for their fruit.
Eggplant comes from the same family as tomatoes, zucchini and okra, and they are all botanically a fruit but consumed as a vegetable.
This fruit thrives in warm climates and comes in varying shapes, sizes and colours. Its glossy and smooth skin is usually a lovely deep purple colour, but it does come in light purple, white and a mixture of the 2.
Its flesh is spongy, which makes the perfect ingredient to cook with if you want something that will absorb all sorts of flavours and sauces.
Although the skin can sometimes be a bit bitter, we usually eat the whole fruit. Skin, flesh and seeds, just like you would a tomato.
Eggplants are eaten cooked, not raw and do require time for it to get to that ultra-soft texture.
Eggplant is also really good for you from a nutrition perspective – no calories, low in fat and carbs but high in fibre.
What Are the Different Types of Eggplant?
There are quite a few different types of eggplants, which you have no doubt noticed when you are grocery shopping. Here are some of the more popular varieties:
- Globe: This is perhaps the most common one. It’s the larger teardrop-shaped fruit with the deep purple, glossy skin. It has a thick cap, and its size is sometimes fat and huge! This variety is perfect for Nasu dengaku (miso-glazed eggplant).
- Chinese or Japanese Eggplant: This is the long and thin variety of the fruit. The colour of the skin is a lighter, violet hue and it is sometimes preferred because it has fewer seeds, a thinner skin and has a creamier flesh when cooked. I personally prefer this over the globe eggplant purely because of size! It’s hard to finish one whole globe eggplant in a family of 3!
- Thai eggplant: These are small, round and usually green in colour. You can find these easily in Asian grocers and perfect for a good Thai curry.
- Baby Eggplant: Also known as Indian eggplant, which is the ones we have used in this recipe. Small, oval in shape with distinctive red/purple and white stripes.
There are many others too, such as the heirloom fairytale, graffiti, little finger, black beauty or even the green or white eggplants.
What Are Some Other Names for Eggplant?
Eggplant is also known as brinjal or aubergine. Truth be known, I grew up only knowing this fruit to be called brinjal. I had no idea what eggplant was when I moved to Australia and needless to say it was so confusing!
What Is Oak Leaf Lettuce?
With so many lettuce varieties available to us today, it’s so nice to be able to mix it up when creating salad recipes.
Contrary to popular belief, they do not all taste the same, and neither are their textures. They are not “just leaves”, and each and every variety offers something different.
Oak leaf lettuce is one of my favourites. You can get green or red oak lettuce which are delicate and have lobed leaves. They have a buttery texture and are slightly sweeter and nuttier than other lettuce.
For this recipe, I selected the red oak lettuce as I wanted the burgundy stained leaves to complement the purple shades of the eggplant and the bright red hues of the pomegranate arils and raspberries.
If you prefer the green oak lettuce, try our Lobster Tail Salad with Mango Dressing.
How to Make Roasted Tamarind Eggplant Salad
How to Make Tamarind Eggplant
Preheat the oven at 180°C or 350°F.
Cut eggplants in half, lengthways.
In the flesh of the eggplant, score on vertical cut down the length and 2 to 3 scores horizontally. By scoring the eggplant, it allows the sauces to seep right into the flesh.
Baste a ceramic baking dish with 1 tsp of olive oil.
Place eggplant on baking dish, skin side down.
In a small mixing bowl, add tamarind paste, brown sugar, honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp olive oil. Whisk until well combined.
With a basting brush, brush half the sauce on top of the eggplant.
Place in the oven for 50 minutes.
How to Make the Rest of the Salad
In a small mixing bowl, add pepitas and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Mix well. On a sheet pan, lay out the pepitas and place in the oven with the eggplant for the last 5 minutes.
Deseed the pomegranate.
Wash and dry the red oak lettuce leaves.
How to Make Tamarind Dressing
With the remaining sauce for the eggplant, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar to make salad dressing.
Mix until well combined.
We love using tamarind as a base of our salad dressings. It is tart yet slightly sweet and provide for excellent salad dressing flavours. You may also like our Ginger, Tamarind and Plum Sauce Dressing and Salty Tamarind Dressing.
How To Assemble The Salad
In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the salad dressing to the red oak lettuce leaves. Toss until well combined.
On a nice, large platter, place the lettuce to cover the whole platter. Make sure the soft leaves face the outside of the platter and the stems in the middle of the platter.
Add the roasted eggplants on top.
Add half the raspberries. Tuck some in between the leaves.
Sprinkle half the roasted soy pepitas.
Then add the rest of the raspberries followed by the rest of the pepitas.
Season with salt and pepper.
Now, doesn’t this all sound so beautiful both in flavour and in presentation? The tart component of the recipe makes for a great side dish to any main fare that is really rich.
As I keep saying, we’re always in need of a palette cleanser in between bites and this salad will do just that.
The freshness of the pomegranate and raspberries will also help to lift the flavour profile of the main fare. The question is, what main dish will you cook now?
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Roasted Tamarind Eggplant Salad
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Preheat the oven at 180°C or 350°F.
- Cut eggplants in half, lengthways.
- In the flesh of the eggplant, score on vertical cut down the length and 2 to 3 scores horizontally.
- Baste a ceramic baking dish with 1 tsp of olive oil.
- Place eggplant on baking dish, skin side down.
- In a small mixing bowl, add tamarind paste, brown sugar, honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp olive oil. Whisk until well combined.
- With a basting brush, brush half the sauce on top of the eggplant.
- Place in the oven for 50 minutes.
- In a small mixing bowl, add pepitas and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Mix well. On a sheet pan, lay out the pepitas and place in the oven with the eggplant for the last 5 minutes.
- Deseed the pomegranate.
- Wash and dry the red oak lettuce leaves.
- With the remaining sauce for the eggplant, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar to make salad dressing.
- Mix until well combined.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the salad dressing to the red oak lettuce leaves. Toss until well combined.
- On a nice large platter, place the lettuce to cover the whole platter. Make sure the soft leaves face the outside of the platter and the stems in the middle of the platter.
- Add the roasted eggplants on top.
- Add half the raspberries. Tuck some in between the leaves.
- Sprinkle half the roasted soy pepitas.
- Then add the rest of the raspberries followed by the rest of the pepitas.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- If you’re not able to find baby eggplants, any eggplant will do. You can cut the long, skinny eggplants into 4 or the really large ones into 10-12 pieces. You can even present the large eggplant in its large half too if you like.
- Any lettuce would do but try selecting one with soft leaves. Iceberg lettuce, for example, wouldn’t be a good choice.
- You will be able to find tamarind paste in the Asian section of your supermarket or any Asian grocer.
- If you only like to use the pulp, don’t add too much water as we need it more like a paste than of a thin viscosity. This will enable the eggplant to roast nicely.
- You can use strawberries as a substitute for raspberries.
- Maple syrup or organic rice malt syrup will also work instead of honey if you need a vegan recipe.
- Substitute soy sauce with tamari for the pepitas if you need a gluten free recipe.
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