If you've never had fried eggplant salad the Syrian way, you're missing out. When I was a kid, we'd have maqali every Friday for lunch, which is basically little plates of all kinds of fried food: fried cauliflower, French fries, fried eggs, you name it. The simplest foods always hold the best memories. But this Middle Eastern eggplant salad has always been my favorite. We used to make it into little slices with the bell pepper mixture on top of each slice, but over the years I found that this version just looks so much better and is always everyone's favorite. It's also super quick and easy to throw together.
Sour, tangy, and oh so delicious, this eggplant salad is the perfect addition to any meal. Don't forget your pita bread for scooping and dipping!
Ingredients You'll Need:
- Eggplant: You can use large or small eggplants, but I usually go for larger ones for this recipe (not too big, they might turn out bitter). They're easier to cut into decently-sized cubes.
- Bell Peppers: I always use a mix of red, green, and yellow peppers for color but you can use whichever one you like.
- Onion: White and red onion both work for this recipe, it's a salad so feel free to add your own twist.
- Garlic: This fried eggplant salad needs A LOT of fresh garlic. Or that's how I usually make it, so if you feel like it might be a little too much for you, you can use less. Don't leave it out though, trust me on this one.
- Lemon Juice: Please only use freshly squeezed lemon juice, and not the ready-made bottled ones. It makes a huge difference, trust me. Bottles lemon juice will always have that distinct fake lemon flavor which will take away from the rest of your dish.
- Cumin: A dash of ground cumin brings this salad together beautifully.
- Vinegar: You're gonna love the zing that vinegar adds to these fried eggplants. They become very similar to Egyptian pickled eggplants. You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
- Dried Coriander: You can use dried coriander or ground, but I prefer dried.
- Oil For Frying: You can use any type of oil for this recipe. I recommend frying oil or vegetable oil, which are both neutral in flavor and won't take away from the flavor of the eggplants.
- Salt and pepper to taste. I usually use sea salt, but you can use regular table salt.
Tips and Tricks
- Choose fresh eggplants. Look for plump, bright eggplants and avoid wrinkly, dull ones. Don't go for huge ones either, they could turn out a little bitter. Medium-sized fresh eggplant is best.
- Don't deep-fry. Eggplants absorb a LOT of liquid. To avoid soggy, oily eggplant cubes, fry them in a shallow pan of oil, flipping them over frequently to make sure they get an even color.
- Place the eggplant on a paper towel immediately after frying. This will make sure any excess oil is absorbed before you mix the eggplants into the salad. You can also lightly pat them with the paper towel.
- Let the eggplant soak up the dressing. After you mix everything up, let it sit for at least 20 minutes so the eggplant can soak up some of the dressing. It makes a huge difference and will give you the perfect eggplant salad every time.
- Chop the vegetables really small. This will give you the perfect bite with a little bit of everything. It also adds the BEST crunch to the soft eggplants.
Can You Eat Eggplant Skin?
Yes, I always cook my eggplants skin-on. If the texture of eggplant skin bothers you, feel free to peel them before frying. You can use a knife or potato peeler to get the skin off.
Do You Need To Salt Eggplants Before Frying?
Unless your eggplants are huge, then no, you don't need to salt them before frying. Some recipes call for sprinkling some salt on top and letting the eggplants "sweat" out the bitterness. It might be necessary for some recipes, but for this specific one you don't need to worry about this step, as it will change the texture completely.
What To Serve With Your Betinjan Meqli
If you want to have your own maqali day like I used to have when I was a kid, here are some things you just Have to have on your maqali table. This collection of recipes make the perfect combination which you'll LOVE.
- Batata Harra- Lebanese Spiced Potatoes With Cilantro
- Crispy Deep Fried Cauliflower Florets
- How To Make French Fries
- Cheese and Za'atar Fried Spring Rolls
- How To Make Tahini Dipping Sauce (Easy Tarator Sauce)
- Better Than Baba Ganoush Lebanese Eggplant Dip
Middle Eastern Fried Eggplant Salad (Betinjan Meqli)
- 3 medium-large eggplants or 5 to 6 small eggplants
- 1 onion
- ½ red bell pepper
- ½ green bell pepper
- ½ yellow bell pepper
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1½ tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil for frying
- Cut the eggplants into 1-inch cubes, then pour some oil into a frying pan (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and fry your eggplants, stirring frequently until fully golden. Set on a paper towel until fully cooled.
- Chop the onion and bell peppers into small cubes, then add into a bowl with the eggplants.
- Smash the garlic and mix with the lemon juice, vinegar, and spices, then pour on top and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
- Don't overcrowd your pan, fry the eggplant in batches.
- Wait for the eggplant to cool completely before mixing with the bell peppers and onion to avoid soggy vegetables.