Perfectly pan fried eggplant dabbed with tomato, oil, and garlic confit and sprinkled with a generous amount of parsley.
Growing up, I remember my mom made this dish almost every week and we devoured it in one sitting. Served cold; it was perfect for hot summer days.
I have to confess: I never liked dunking my bread into soup or a sauce. I didn’t enjoy bread getting wet, period, but I loved dunking bread into the Imam Bayaldi juices – something I learned from my uncle. He would always “accidentally” drop his bread into the juices and claim the whole plate to himself.
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So what is Imam Bayaldi?
The is a popular dish in the Mediterranean, made with pan-fried eggplants. The anecdotal story describes that Imam’s new wife made this dish for him. He never had tasted anything so magnificent and fainted from satisfaction.
Chronicles of Imam Bayaldi
“Mr. Stepanian’s favorite dish, hunkiav beyandi. He says it was originally Armenian, but the Turks have claimed it for centuries. It’s kebab served with eggplant stuffed with a purée which the Turks call Imam Bayaldi ‘Swooning Imam.’ Onions browned in oil, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper.”
These are the words of Nero Wolfe, a fictional character, a brilliant detective, and gourmand, created by American mystery writer Rex Stout.
There are different variations of this dish: some have caramelized onions cooked with tomatoes, some use whole eggplants.
Grocery List for Pan Fried Eggplant with Tomato Confit
How to Make Imam Bayaldi – Step by Step
For this dish choose eggplants that are the same size, medium to small.
After washing, cut stems off, and peel the eggplant only in two places from two opposite sides.
Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1 cm (¼ inch) thick slices, if they are baby eggplant, cut them in half. The end cuts should be the part where you peel the skin off. This will prevent the eggplant from bursting while frying in the oil.
Salt the slices and lay them on a board to draw out the moisture. This will ensure that eggplants absorb less oil. In 15 minutes the dew will form on the surface of the eggplants. Pat dry with a towel and begin frying.
Frying the eggplants
Frying the eggplant makes them perfect. The hot oil sears and forms a crust all around the eggplant slices. The insides cook and becomes creamy and soft.
Preheat the oil to 350°F (180°C) and carefully place the pat-dried eggplants into the oil. Always place the eggplants away from you, so in case it splashes it goes the opposite direction. Don’t overcrowd the pan. After 3-4 minutes, check that one side is golden brown, then carefully turn them around and fry the other side.
After both sides are evenly browned, use tongs or spatula to remove the eggplant slices and blot them on a paper napkin or a towel. Continue with the next batch.
Making tomato confit
You can use canned tomatoes but fresh tomatoes are so much brighter and sweeter, so I highly recommend using fresh tomatoes. The field misfits from the farmer’s market are perfect for making the sauce.
For best results, we first take the skin off. Have boiling water ready. Make a small cross-like incision in the bottom of the tomatoes and plunge-submerge them into a bowl of hot water. After 10-15 minutes, the skin will start curling back.
With the paring knife, start peeling the skin starting from that incision section.
Roughly chop the tomatoes, place them in a saucepan and cook until soft. With a spoon or a potato masher, crush the tomatoes as much as you can. Cook until they soften. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook until bubbling.
Crush garlic into the hot sauce, give it a good stir, and turn the heat off. The sauce is ready.
Use the leaves and tender stems. Have the parsley finely chopped and ready. Parsley is not only a garnish, it’s a major flavor contributor here.
Assembling the imam bayaldi
Arrange eggplant slices on a platter and generously pour the sauce over. Cover each slice with finely chopped parsley. It’s best to chill the Imam Bayaldi for at least 3-hours.
During this time, the eggplant slices will absorb the tomato and parsley juices.
Serve cold with crusty bread.
Enjoy your meal!
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Pan Fried Eggplants with Tomato Confit – Imam Bayaldi
- 1/2 cup grape seed canola oil for frying
- 6-7 baby eggplants
- 4 ripe tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil for tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup parsley chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- Wash and prepare the eggplants.
- Slice them into 1/4 inch slices. See the post on how to peal and slice the eggplants.
- Salt and leave them for at least 15 minutes.
- Dry the eggplant slices with a towel
- When ready to fry, pour the oil into a frying pan and bring it to 350 F.
- Carefully place the slices into the hot oil in a single layer; avoid overcrowding.
- Fry 4-5 minutes per side, until both sides are golden brown.
- Remove eggplant from the oil and drain them on a baking rack.
- Continue with the rest of the eggplants.
- Skin, slice and cook the tomatoes. Add oil and garlic parsley
- Assemble and serve