I wasn’t always a fan of eggplant, mostly because I’d never had an eggplant dish that wasn’t overcooked. The ones I’ve had are always mushy, squishy, and the vibrant purple color skin had turned to an unsightly brown. I have been hesitant to eat eggplant based on those bad experiences. My negative stereotypes about eggplant completely changed when I tried this Sichuan eggplant prepared by my friend—the eggplant retains the enticing purple color, the core is spongy and absorbs the piquant flavors of the fish fragrant sauce. Eggplant is indeed delightful, if you know how to prepare it. My friend gave me this recipe and I have been cooking it at home since. This classic Sichuan recipe is a keeper. This is sometimes called “Fish Fragrant” Eggplant.
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
- 8 oz (250 g) Chinese or american eggplant, cut into 2 in (5 cm) length by 1/2 in (1.25 cm) thick
- Oil, for deep-frying
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- One 1/2 in (1.25 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1/2 red finger-length chili, deseeded and cut into small pieces
- 1 heaping tablespoon chopped green onion (scallion)
- 11/2 tablespoons hot bean sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- Mix all the ingredients in the Sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Cut the eggplant and soak the pieces immediately in cold water. Add some salt to the water to prevent the eggplant from turning brown. Pat dry with paper towels before deep-frying.
- Heat 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of the oil in a wok or skillet to 350°F (175°C) for deep-frying. Gently drop the eggplant into the oil and deep-fry for 10 seconds. Remove them with a strainer or slotted spoon, draining the excess oil by laying the eggplant on a dish lined with paper towels. Discard or reserve the oil for another recipe.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry to a light brown. Add the red chilies and and then stir-in the Sauce. As soon as the Sauce thickens, put in the eggplant and green onion. Stir continuously until the eggplant is well coated with the Sauce. Dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.
COOK’S NOTE: The name “fish fragrant” might be confusing to many because there isn’t any fish in this recipe. Tale has it that this recipe originated from a Sichuan family who loved to eat fish. The wife used a combination of Chinese black vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger to cook fish. One day, she used the leftover “Fish Fragrant” sauce to make a non-fish dish and the family loved it. Since then, “Fish Fragrant” style of cooking has been adapted to a variety of dishes such as eggplant and pork.
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