So it’s a new year and you’re trying to keep up with your #healthgoals without sacrificing your enjoyment or sanity.

We got you, boo. This list of our favorite eggplant dishes will help you keep your plate colorful and your palate happy.

12/10 – Eggplant

One of our favorite plates at 12/10.

12/10’s eggplant is their version of miso eggplant, which is typically glazed and seasoned. The refreshing herbs lift the heavy, rich and sweet brown sauce that the eggplant is drizzled with, and the pinipig crunch on top works well against the softness of the eggplants flesh, providing a toasty aftertaste. It’s the type of dish you’ll want to take in small bites so you can savor each one like a breath of fresh air.

Bad Bird – Eggplant Agedashi

We could eat two of these and call it a meal.

While most people come over for a taste of Bad Bird’s spicy fried chicken, the restaurant has an underrated and vast selection of sides that come in pretty large servings given their modest prices. We’re for their crunchy version of the classic Japanese dish eggplant agedashi, with a breadcrumb coating that soaks up all the dashi and soy sauce goodness, and holding within it a crunchy and earthy eggplant interior. The bonito flakes gives it a salty finish for a dish that is simple and comforting.

Bijin Nabe – Maximum fried Eggplant

Photo by Photokitchen.

Bijin Nabe imports a specific type of eggplant from Japan that they explain doesn’t absorb too much oil when fried and thus does not get mushy, so when you bite through the thin and seasoned coating you get a crunchy and juicy interior. The coating is seasoned with what they call their “maximum spice”, reminiscent of what you would dip fried pigeon into or find coated on a Hot Star chicken. The delicate character of the eggplant is enough to eat it alone sans the sweet chili sauce—in fact, we’d recommend skipping the sauce altogether.

Ping Pong Diplomacy – Crunchy Eggplant

Photo on right by Photokitchen.

The crunchy eggplant lives up to its name with a loud and resounding crunch may make you pause and see if you’ve drawn attention to yourself (You haven’t; everyone is too busy enjoying their own food). Familiar Asian flavors—green onions, sesami, chili, cilantro—make it accessible, while a touch of Szecuan peppercorn gives its flavor some edge, while a sparingly drizzled sweet sauce rounds out the flavors. While the dish has a sprinkle of pork in it, the eggplant remains the star.

Your Local – Semi-Fried Eggplant

Photo by writer Trish Baes.

Your Local’s semi-fried eggplant takes clear inspiration from the eggplant agedashi, but with creative touches that make it a dish worth going out of your way for: mascarpone cheese makes the dish creamy, and tempura flakes and squid ink crumbs deepen the flavors while adding texture. The baby eggplant results in a meaty-like texture that gives the dish enough heft to fill you up more than you may have expected from a vegetarian starter.

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