There are a wide variety of eggplants in SE asia. All tend to be smaller than the European varieties. The most common are long and slender, but size and shape can vary widely. Colors range from the familiar dark, shiny purple through pale purple, light green, white, and bright yellow.
Unlike European varieties, most tropical eggplants are not bitter. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, including the traditional method of breading and frying.
Market and storage tips All eggplants should be absolutely unblemished and have undamaged skins. They should be plump, hard, and lustrous. (Except that Thai eggplant has a matte surface.) Reject any which are spongy or have black, withered tops. Smaller (therefore younger) eggplant is best. It will not have any bitterness and will not need to be salted. Eggplants are delicate and do not store well. Even with refrigeration, they will last no more than one week, and will shrivel and get very bitter with age.
Cooking Eggplants will absorb a great deal of oil during frying. Prior to frying, eggplants should be leeched with salt to remove water, reduce cooking time, reduce oil absorption, and toughen the fibers to keep the eggplant from falling apart during cooking.
Salting will also remove the bitterness from European eggplants. Slice the eggplant into 3/4" thick rounds, then salt both sides thoroughly. Stack the slices and place a weight on top, increasing the weight over time until the slices are reduced to 1/4" thickness, about 1 hour. Then rinse thoroughly in very hot water, tasting to assure that all the salt is removed. Pat dry, dip in egg and seasoned flour, and fry.
Tropical eggplants can be grilled whole (without leeching). Turn frequently. The long, thin Japanese eggplant should be cooked until it bursts or gets soft and limp. It may also be sliced into rounds, painted with olive oil, and grilled. For baking, cut into slices, brush with oil, and bake at 400° F. for 15-20 minutes.