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Chinese Noodle Salad w/ Roasted Eggplant



The Noodles & The Marinade
7 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar -- or more to taste
2 1/2 teaspoons red pepper oil
8 each scallions -- mostly white part,
-- thinly sliced
3 tablespoons cilantro -- chopped
14 ounces Chinese noodles
=20
The Eggplant & The Vegetable Garnish
1 pound Japanese eggplant
1 tablespoon ginger root -- 1 1/2 oz. peeled &
-- minced
1 clove garlic -- finely chopped
Reserved Marinade, from above
4 ounces snow peas -- strings removed, cut -- in narrow strips
1/2 pound mung bean sprouts
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 each carrot -- medium size, cut in -- jullienne
Cilantro leaves -- for garnish


Begin by making the marinade. Combine all the ingredients (except the noodles) in a bowl, stir them together until the sugar is dissolved.
Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the noodles. While it is heating, gently pull apart the strands of noodles with your fingers, loosening and fluffing them as you do so. Add the noodles to the boiling water without any salt, and give them a quick stir with a fork or a pair of chopsticks. Cook briefly until they are done but not overly soft, a few minutes at most. Immediately pour them into a colander and rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking. Shake the colander vigorously to get rid of as much water as possible, and put the noodles into a bowl. Stir the marinade again; then pour half of it over the noodles and toss them with your hands to distribute the marinade. Set the remaining marinade aside. If the noodles aren't to be used for a while, cover them with plastic and refrigerate them. The flavors, as well as the heat in the red pepper oil, will develop as the noodles sit.
Preheat the oven to 400=B0F. Pierce the eggplants in several places and bake them until they are soft and their skins have shriveled, about 20 minutes, depending on their size. Turn them over after 10 minutes so they will bake evenly. When the eggplants are done, remove them to a cutting board and slice them in half lengthwise. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skin away from the flesh. Don't worry about any small pieces of skin that are difficult to remove - the flecks of dark purple - brown are pretty. Shred the eggplants, gently tearing them into 1/4 - inch strips. Add the ginger and garlic to the reserved marinade, then the eggplant strips. Turn the pieces over several times to make sure all the surfaces are well coated, and set them aside. Bring a quart of water to a boil with a teaspoon of salt. Blanch the snow peas until they are bright green; then remove them with a strainer and rinse them in cool water. Cut them into long, narrow strips and set them aside.
Next, put the sprouts in the water and cook them for about 30 seconds. Pour them into a colander, rinse them with cold water, and lay them on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Roast the sesame seeds in a pan until they are lightly colored and smell toasty.
If the noodles have been refrigerated, allow them to come to room temperature; then toss them with the eggplant strips and half the sesame seeds. Mound them on a platter, distribute the carrots, snow peas, and mung bean sprouts over the noodles, and garnish with the remaining sesame seeds and the leafy branches of cilantro.
Present the salad like this, layered and laced with the colorful garnishes, either on a single large platter or on individual plates.
Once served, guests can toss the noodles and vegetables together to thoroughly mingle the different colors, textures, and tastes.













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