It’s one thing for the kitchen to smell wonderful when eggplants are roasting on the stove, where they take on a terrific smokiness as they char and cook. But when the soft, sweet flesh is fried, the kitchen smells heavenly. I had that discovery last week when I ended up roasting a bunch of eggplants. After making Indian baigan bharta and eating it Vietnamese style with scallion oil and fish sauce, there was still eggplant leftover. I’d pulled the flesh apart to let it drain and it dawned upon me that the eggplant pieces had the shape and texture of raw oysters, which got me thinking about frying them for a vegetarian oyster po’boy banh mi.
Usually I use cornmeal and corn flour but there was an open bag of semolina flour on the counter. I wondered how the eggplant would fry up coated in the coarse flour made from durum wheat (the same stuff used for pasta). Pretty well, I found out. The fried eggplant pieces were crisp on the outside, browned beautifully, and reheated well. I was hooked.