Three of a kind ... imam biyildi.
The name of this stuffed eggplant dish from Turkey translates as ''the Imam fainted'' and there are two theories as to why he did. The more popular one is that he swooned at the sheer deliciousness of this creation; the other is that he was a bit of a tightwad and fainted at the extravagant use of olive oil in the cooking. Eggplant soaks oil up like a sponge but a good cook manages to exploit this characteristic and achieve a luxurious result without leaving diners with greasy chins.
1. Mado Cafe
With smoke wafting from shopfront grills, this part of Auburn has plenty to attract the hungry. Mado cafe, however, lures with its ice-cream counter. Hold that thought until after the imam bayildi ($14.90). The dining room is decorated with Turkish artefacts and heavy timber banquettes. Rather than stuffing a whole eggplant, the cooks layer fried slices with a stuffing of diced tomato, onion, garlic, red and green capsicum, mint and dried Turkish red pepper. Served with rice and a huge green salad. Make sure you leave room for the ice-cream.
An army of chaps in bright white T-shirts operates the takeaway, as well as cooking for those eating in the vast adjacent dining room. The fried eggplant for the imam bayildi ($5) is stuffed with a chunky mix of mushrooms, onion, garlic, red and green capsicum, tomato and parsley. There are no spices but a grilled green chilli on the side more than supplies any required heat. The pide (Turkish bread and pizzas) are fabulous too.
3. The Sultan's Table
The counter at this corner takeaway groans with salads, dips, bread and grilled meat. Behind it hides an airy courtyard. Tomatoes and red onion dominate the eggplant's simple stuffing in the imam bayildi ($12) and whatever sweetness they contribute is balanced by a little bitterness from green capsicum. It is light on oil and big on clean flavours. But see that grilled green chilli draped casually on top? Bite it at your peril.
● Mado Cafe, 63 Auburn Road, Auburn, 9643 5299
● Erciyes, 409 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, 9319 1309
● The Sultan's Table, 179 Enmore Road, Enmore, 9557 0229