An Old World vegetable with Asian origins, eggplant is thought to have been eaten both raw and cooked in China since at least the T'ang dynasty (established the year 618). When raw, eggplant is bitter, tough, and chewy, but when cooked the vegetable turns sweet with a rich, nutty flavor, and tender, even creamy texture. There are a few different eggplant varieties, with the largest being the most common in American supermarkets.

Most of these recipes feature Chinese eggplant, a slender, thin-skinned purple variety that has a more delicate flavor than the large globe-shaped eggplants most often found in western supermarkets. One recipe calls for Thai eggplant—these small, golf-ball sized eggplants normally have a greenish-white skin. Japanese eggplant works best in the pan-fried eggplant with miso recipe, but you can substitute Chinese eggplant if needed.