How to Make Tortang Talong (Filipino Eggplant Omelette)

An egg-batter fried eggplant perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

7/15/2021 7:00:00 PM

An egg-batter fried eggplant perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Crispy, succulent egg-battered fried eggplant stuffed with seasoned ground pork.

Roasting at a moderate temperature yields juicy, flavorful, and creamy eggplant. Combining seasoned ground pork with beaten eggs ensures that the pork sticks to the eggplant during frying.One of the dishes I request most often when I visit my parents' house is tortang talong, an eggplant cooked whole, peeled, flattened with a fork, dipped in egg, and shallow-fried until golden brown. Growing up, my mom preferred roasting the eggplant, and what would arrive at the table was a study in contrasting textures and flavors: the naturally sweet roasted eggplant offset by the salty seasoning, the soft, creamy flesh encased in the crisp fried exterior.

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While tortang talong can be kept vegetarian, my mom often prepared it rellenong, or stuffed. There are many versions of tortang rellenong, including ones stuffed with ground beef, crab, or shrimp—all of them are delicious. But since my mom usually made it with seasoned ground pork, that's the recipe I decided to develop, and I knew that the final dish would incorporate a mixture of cooked onion, garlic, and ground pork, all seasoned with an umami-packed combination of oyster, fish, and soy sauces.

But before I could get to the pork, I needed to sort out how to cook the eggplant. Traditionally, tortang talong uses grilled Japanese eggplant, but in the interest of perfecting this recipe I grilled, broiled, boiled, and roasted Japanese, Chinese, and globe eggplants, and then battered and fried them all. Grilling and broiling produced the smoky, charred eggplant flavor that's typical of the dish, but I found that flavor overpowered the the subtle flavor dynamic created by the cooked eggplant and the fried egg batter coating. Meanwhile, boiling yielded bloated, water-logged eggplant that lacked any depth of flavor. In the end, roasted eggplant proved to be the winner—Mom's method was right (even if she chose it mostly for convenience). Roasted eggplant is mildly sweet, juicy, and tender.

As to the choice of eggplant, I preferred the results produced by slender Japanese eggplant. If you can’t find Japanese eggplant, Chinese eggplant (slightly larger and pale violet in color) are a good substitute. However, I would avoid using globe eggplant for this—because they're large and bulbous they take a long time to roast, and they have a milder flavor that doesn't really stand up well in the finished dish.

Making the dish is relatively simple: While the eggplant roasts, you sauté chopped onion, garlic, and ground pork, and then season the mixture with the oyster, fish, and soy sauces. Once cool, you whisk the pork with some beaten eggs, and set it aside. The roasted eggplant is dipped in a separate mixture of lightly seasoned beaten eggs, placed in a hot skillet, and then the pork-and-egg mixture is spooned over the top—the eggs in the mixture help it to adhere to the frying eggplant. After cooking each eggplant on both sides until the batter is crisp, serve them up with fragrant jasmine rice and banana ketchup, Filipinos’ fruity, glossy take on tomato ketchup, alongside. To me, that's a full, almost perfect meal, which I'd happily eat at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but tortang talong can and should be served as part of a larger spread. 

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