Recipe: Mother-in-law tongue


My friend Abby once suggested that I add recipes from my time in Kazakhstan to my blog. “Everyone loves recipes,” she told me.

A popular potluck dish has been on my mind lately, perhaps because the omnipresent eggplant has hit its prime.

The dish, mother-in-law tongue, comes via my Kazakh colleague and friend Gulzhan, the one I refer to as “the best cook” in my memoir,  At Home On the Kazakh Steppe. And it’s particularly yummy if you love garlic (as I do).

I ate this dish often in Kazakhstan, but it wasn’t until Gulzhan visited me here in Vermont back in 2008 that I paid attention to how she made it. Here’s what it takes:

  • An eggplant or two (depending on how many you want to make, naturally)
  • Salt
  • Mayonnaise
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes, thinly sliced

Best of all, it makes a great impression at a potluck buffet.

Directions for Mother-in-law-Tongue

Slice the eggplant lengthwise, leaving on the skin. The thinner the slices, the better. I use a Mandolin (not the one with strings; the one with the sharp blade). Place the eggplant slices on a platter with a lip to hold the liquid.




Sprinkle salt over all
. You’ll be rinsing it off before you cook, so you can be liberal.  Let the eggplant slices sit with the salt for “a while” in a dish.  The salt pulls the liquid from the eggplant slices so when you sauté them (step 5, below) they’ll be crispier.

Recipe alert.
 Gulzhan never measured. And she rarely had a written recipe.
Her dishes seemed to flow organically. Could that be happening here?

While the eggplant is sitting in the salt, mix mayonnaise and minced garlic to taste. Set it aside for “a bit” so the flavors have time to blend.

Once you see liquid
 gathered beneath the eggplant, it’s time to rinse the slices well and squeeze dry. I dab them with paper towels too. This rinsing and drying is not a step you want to skip.


Sauté the slices in a small amount of olive oil until brown on both sides.



Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels until cool. (This is my American addition to the recipe.)


They do look a bit tongue-like, don’t they?


When cool, place on a serving platter, spread a thin layer of the mayonnaise-garlic mix on top, add thinly sliced tomato and fold in half (better for finger-food).




When I make this again, I’ll be sure to take a photo of the final product.


9 Responses

  1. Diana Beebe
    | Reply

    This sounds good. I don’t cook eggplant usually, but I’ll have to try this. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Mary Jo Beebe
    | Reply

    Diana is my daughter-in-law and sent me your blog because she knew I would enjoy your adventures. Thanks for the eggplant recipe. Eggplant is an unusual taste “treat.” Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes not. The sometimes that I do keeps me interested enough to try new recipes.

  3. Janet
    | Reply

    Hi Diana and Welcome Mary Jo,

    I’m tickled you’ve made this a family affair. Thanks so much for sharing the link, Diana.

    Vegetables, in general, were so rare in Kazakhstan. Eggplant, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage were the exceptions. But at its core, mother-in-law tongue is mostly a vehicle for garlic! I hope you enjoy it.

    Off to read Diana’s Broken Rules of the Universe.

  4. Belinda Nicoll
    | Reply

    Sounds good; thanks for sharing. I’m definitely making it today.

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Hi Belinda. So glad you could stop by. I hope you’ll take pictures, when you do make it. Woody’s been using all our eggplant to experiment with different moussaka recipes. I’m hoping yo make it still this summer, once he’s past his moussaka quest.

  5. gulzhan
    | Reply

    Hello Janet!!! Thank you for sharing recipe. My family loves mother-in-law tongue.We cook it a lot in autumn because you can find eggplants easily and cheap. by the way I saw first time special measuring spoons when I was at your house.Also now you can buy any kind of fruits and vegetables in Zhezkazgan all seasons. Hope when I visit US next time I will cook more things with you. Next time i will send you picture of mother-in-law tongue.

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Hi Gulzhan
      (Sally misses beer)
      I’m so glad you dropped by and left a comment. Thank you.
      And good to know for sure that j didn’t leave out any steps in the recipe. I look forward to seeing your mother-in-law tongue photos. And to cooking more with you when next you visit. Write me with your plans.
      Ta Ta.

  6. Pamela
    | Reply

    Being a mother-in-law, I kind of cringed when I saw these photos. Yikes! I’m a bit sensitive – always careful to not wag my tongue with advice in front of either my son-in-law or my daughter-in-law. Laughing, I guess I’m looking at this recipe differently than others. 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, I’m a MiL too, Pam. But you know, it’s what they call it in the old Soviet Union. I just adopted the whole thing, recipe and name. Package deal. Perhaps it’s up to our generation to leave the next one wondering, “Why’d they name it that?”

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