1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
scant 1/3 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/2 fresh red chile, minced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
grated zest and juice of one lime
1/3 cup sunflower oil or olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
8 ounces pkg dried soba noodles, cooked al dente, drained and cooled
1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into small chunks
8 ounces grilled or pan-fried tofu, cut into tiny cubes
1/2 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
a handful of basil leaves, slivered
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Make the dressing: combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for up to 1 minute, or until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add the garlic, red pepper flakes or chile, and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and shallow fry the eggplant in three batches, until deeply golden. Transfer to a large plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the noodles the dressing, mango, tofu, eggplant, onions, and most of the herbs. You can now set this aside for an hour or two before serving topped with the remaining herbs.