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In my mom’s household, the eggplant was the poor man’s vegetable that got royal treatment.

She cooked it like bistek, marinated in soy sauce and kalamansi, then fried and served for breakfast. Sometimes she prepared it as torta or omelet. If time and budget allowed, or if it was a weekend, that torta would include ground meat, raisins, the works.

As in my mom’s household, the eggplant has taken its esteemed place in our tiny but busy kitchen. I’ve recreated my mom’s eggplant bistek and, to Poch’s befuddlement, served it for breakfast. I guess eggplants –  that is, eggplants cooked like flank steak – don’t figure as breakfast fare in many households. But hey, nothing like a solid umami hit in the morning! Besides, Rama – she with the Pinoy palate – loves it.

Our tortang talong, on the other hand, started out as the generously stuffed kind, until we realized the vegetarian ground meat we were using had more chemical additives than real pork or beef. It was also a pain flipping a whale of an eggplant in the pan.

So the plain egg-and-eggplant omelet has since become a dinner staple. The eggplant is first charred in the oven toaster, skinned, and fried before the beaten egg is added. A little salt, a little pepper. We’re not missing the weight and flavour of meat at all.

(Except last night, while the resident vegetarian was away, I found some leftover crab meat in the fridge and promptly stuffed it in my eggplant. Shown above, Rama’s half of the crab-stuffed eggplant omelet. Yum, she said.)