Credit: Priya Konings

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The Dish: Sweet and sour grilled eggplant with fried garlic and mint   

Where to Get It: Mola, 3155 Mount Pleasant St. NW

Price: $12

What It Is: Shards of eggplant drenched in a heady sweet and sour sauce, topped with a smattering of fried garlic petals and chopped mint. The kitchen grills the eggplant until it softens and then douses it in a red wine vinegar and sugar reduction that’s infused with chili and roasted garlic. It has a welcome tart and sweet flavor profile, with a hint of heat from the chili and richness from the roasted garlic. The sauce is glaze-like and deep maroon in color. 

The Story: Mola owner Erin Lingle brought this recipe back from one of her annual visits to Spain. She is inspired by the Moorish influences in Spanish cooking, and she fell in love with the bold flavors of the Moorish eggplant she encountered while travelling. All of the dishes she tried featured “some kind of vinegar and sweet element, whether it was sugar or dried fruit.” 

Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: Eggplant can be a love-it-or-hate-it food, but this may be the eggplant preparation that coaxes the haters across the line. The dish has none of the bitterness that people often associate with the vegetable. Rather, it’s smoky and supple, and the sauce brings out a sweet note that contrasts perfectly with the potent garlic.