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Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup sunflower oil
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
8 to 9 ounces soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice or into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1 2/3 cup basil leaves (if you can get some Thai basil, but much less of it)
2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves.
Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile, and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.
Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente.
Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.
In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours.
When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.