Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

September 13, 2020 at 10:10 pm (Derek's faves, Pasta, Website / blog)

This Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty has been lighting up the internet for years now. Serious Eats loves it. 101cookbooks has blogged it. Epicurious has posted it. Several friends have personally raved to me about it. So back in 2018 I tried it.

I didn’t love it. The eggplant was greasy. The whole recipe seemed overwhelmingly sweet and not salty/acidic/spicy enough. I didn’t think the eggplant and mango really did much for each other. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine. It didn’t taste bad. But it was a lot of work for a recipe that was only meh. I told this to one of the friend’s who had recommended it and she thought maybe I had screwed something up. She came over a few weeks later and we made it together. It tasted about the same. Still meh. Derek again loved it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Then this weekend another friend invited us over for dinner and served it as our first course. It was definitely better than when I had made it. The eggplant was cooked much better—more uniformly cooked through and much less greasy. And the whole dish just looked more professional and refined. But my overall impression was the same—too sweet, not enough salt or punch. Derek said he thought there was plenty of acid in the dressing, but I couldn’t detect it. He normally adds salt to the food I cooked, but he thought the dish was plenty salty. For me the sugar overwhelmed all the other flavors. I really wanted more of a dressing like the one that goes in a Thai green papaya salad, where by the end smoke is coming out of your ears. Derek said this isn’t supposed to be that kind of a dish, and I know that’s not what was intended. But if I were going to make a noodle dish with eggplant and mango and chilies and cilantro and basil, that’s what I would want.

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