Until I came to China, I never really enjoyed eating eggplant. We would usually simply grill it (most often together with zuchinni) and eat it with different kinds of dips. I guess somewhere deep inside I knew there’s more to this beautiful vegetable. Now it has most certainly become one of my favourites. I would order it very often in restaurants, a little petrified about all the oil that comes with it, yet always amazed with all the flavours.
Since I got my own kitchen, I tried to replicate the taste, without using all the oil. Traditionally the eggplant is cut to smaller pieces, then deep-fried until soft and ready to absorb all the delicious sauce. To avoid deep frying, I just peel the skin off, then brown it on maybe 3 tablespoons oil. Another way is to cut eggplant to pieces, leave the skin on, but soak the pieces in water for some time. This was my mother-in-law’s advice, and to be completely honest, I haven’t tried it (yet). If I want to indulge myself completely, I go to my favourite Sichuan restaurant and order it and forget about having remorse. But I promise you, this homemade version is just as delicious and much healthier!
2 eggplants (around 300g)
3-4 tablespoons oil (I use canola or coconut)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (pretty sure I always use more, same with vinegar)
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped dried chillies
1 tablespoon chopped spring onion (plus some to garnish)
1 tablespoon chinese chilli paste (I use garlic flavoured)
1 tablespoon chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Peel the eggplant’s skin off. Cut in small pieces, around 3 cm long. Brown it on 2-3 tablespoons oil. After the eggplant absorbs all the oil and browns a little, you can add some water to make it as soft as possible. Set aside.
In a small bowl mix together the chilli paste, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. You may add a little bit of water. Stir all the ingredients together to make a sauce. Set aside.
In the wok or a frying pan, heat the remaining oil and stir in garlic, ginger, dried chillies and spring onion. Keep stiring until they become aromatic (you will smell it, it’s wonderful). Add the eggplant, stir a couple of times. Add sauce and stir another couple of times. Off it goes into a plate. Garnish with some spring onion if you feel like it. Enjoy hot!