Yu-Xiang Eggplant (Szechuan spicy eggplant)
Serves 4 alongside rice or noodles
My friend Kat shared this recipe for her dad’s famous eggplant. I love the simplicity; just meltingly tender eggplant on fire with the benefit of Chinese garlic bean paste, also known as Chili Bean Sauce or Toban Djan. The Lee Kum Kee brand has a nice balance of bean, chili and garlic. Serve with plenty of steaming white rice.
4 firm Asian eggplants, preferably no wider than 2 inches in diameter
3 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons Chinese garlic bean paste
8 garlic cloves, minced
6 green onions, green part only, sliced into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1. Remove stems from top of eggplant, then cut each eggplant lengthwise. Cut each piece into a section 2 1/2 to 3 inches long, then slice each section into three pieces vertically. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Each eggplant slice should look like short, plump stick with a little bit of purple skin on one side. The skin is important as it will help the eggplant maintain it’s shape as it cooks.
2. In a wok or a deep 12 inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering. Add the eggplant, stirring briskly with long handled metal tongs or a long handled metal spatula. Continue to cook for about 5-6 minute or until it just begins to soften. Remove from pan and pile onto a dinner plate and set aside.
3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to wok. When oil is shimmering once more, add garlic bean sauce and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then stir add eggplant. In a measuring cup stir together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar pour on top of eggplant. Stir constantly for 1 minute then cover the wok for 3 minutes. Check eggplant; if it looks a little dry pour in 2-3 tablespoons of water and stir for another minute.
4. In the measuring cup you used to mix the soy sauce, stir together water and cornstarch. Drizzle half over sizzling eggplant and stir into the juices; the idea is to cook the starch mixture until the eggplant is thickened to a desired consistency. If you want a thicker sauce, keep drizzling in the cornstarch mixture while stirring constantly. You don’t have to use the entire mixture; Kat said it was okay by her dad!
5. When the eggplant sauce is as thick as desired, turn off heat and stir in chopped green scallions. Move eggplant to serving dish and eat immediately with steamed rice or noodles.