This salad is a classic in central Thailand and a bestseller at Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok restaurants. Charred eggplant is tossed in warmed tangy dressing, a uniquely Thai technique, then garnished with fried garlic and shallots for a dish that’s both luscious and refreshing.
Fried Garlic: Place fine-mesh strainer over heatproof bowl and set aside. Pour oil into a shallow pan, ½-inch deep. Set pan over high heat until oil is lightly bubbling, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, place garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop. Add garlic to the oil and immediately turn heat to low. Cook 3–4 minutes, stirring the entire time to prevent garlic from burning.
When garlic is light golden brown and the bubbling has slowed, turn off heat. Strain the garlic, reserving the flavorful oil in the bowl. Gently shake the strainer to remove as much oil as possible, then drain and cool the garlic on paper towels in an even layer. Garlic will crisp as it cools. Makes about ¼ cup fried garlic and ½ cup garlic oil. Storage: Fried garlic can be stored in a container, uncovered, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Alternatively, place into an airtight container with a silica gel packet (available online) to store for several weeks. Garlic oil can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Fried Shallots: Place fine-mesh strainer over heatproof bowl and set aside. Pour oil into a shallow pan, ½-inch deep. Set pan over high heat until oil is lightly bubbling, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the shallots by peeling, cutting in half, then thinly slicing with the grain into a julienne. When the oil is bubbling, turn heat to low, add the shallots, and stir. Don't rush the process with high heat: cook, stirring and scraping the sides occasionally, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle sizzle, 5–10 minutes.
When the oil stops bubbling and the shallots are starting to brown but still look raw, turn off heat. The residual heat will continue cooking the shallots. Continue stirring and flipping the shallots until they are a deep golden brown and crispy, another 1–2 minutes. Strain the shallots, reserving the flavorful oil in the bowl. Cool the shallots on paper towels in an even layer. Shallots will crisp as they cool. Makes about ¼ cup fried shallots and ½ cup shallot oil. Storage: Fried shallots can be stored in a container, uncovered, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Alternatively, place into an airtight container with a silica gel packet (available online) to keep fresh for several weeks. Shallot oil can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Eggplants: Preheat charcoal grill according to grill directions to medium heat, about 30 minutes. Once the coals have begun to turn gray but are still flaming, place the eggplants directly on the coals. Cook, turning frequently, until the skin has almost completely blackened and the flesh is very soft, about 4 minutes; the goal is to fully char the skin before the flesh gets mushy. When they're ready, a knife should meet almost no resistance when the eggplant is poked. Alternatively, eggplants can be roasted over the burner of a stove: turn frequently until the skin has blistered and blackened.
Salad: Julienne the shallot into long strips, thinly slice chiles into rings, and roughly chop boiled egg. Set aside. Meanwhile, remove charred eggplant from the grill or stove. Place in a shallow bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap to steam the eggplants for easier removal of the charred skin, 5–10 minutes.
Dressing: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add fish sauce, palm sugar simple syrup, lime juice, and sliced chiles. Heat the mixture just until it's warm to the touch, 15 seconds. Peel off and discard the skin of the eggplants. (It's fine to leave bits of charred skin; they will add to the smoky flavor of the dish.) Cut peeled eggplants into 1-inch pieces and place into the warm dressing. Stir gently, then stir in the julienned shallots.
Assembly: Transfer eggplant mixture to a serving platter. Garnish with dried shrimp, chopped egg, fried garlic, fried shallot, and a few cilantro leaves. Serve.