What’s for dinner: Sichuan eggplant in garlic sauce
Eggplant is often served as a side dish, but it also makes for a great vegetarian entree. It’s especially delicious when smothered in a flavorful sauce, such as this sweet/hot Sichuan-style garlic sauce. Scallion pancakes or take-out spring rolls round out the meal.
Sichuan food is meant to be spicy, so for the proper sting, be sure to add the chili oil. Remember also that eggplant can be bitter, so salt and then press the sliced fruit between paper towels before frying to draw out bitter juices.
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 4 Japanese eggplants (about 1 pound total), trimmed and cut into bite-size chunks
- 2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon hot bean paste, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed in 3 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon hot chili oil, optional
- 1 tablespoon dark
- sesame oil
Make sauce by mixing soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, rice wine and white pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat a large wok over high heat. Add enough oil to come about 11/2 inches up the sides of the wok, and heat to 325 degrees. Add the eggplant and stir-fry just until it softens but still holds its shape, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon or strainer.
Return wok to high heat. Add scallion, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add hot bean paste and soy sauce mixture, and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add eggplant and stir-fry until the sauce is boiling and the eggplant is hot, about 1 minute. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce thickens, about 10 seconds. Add chili oil, if using, and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the sesame oil and serve immediately, alone or over white or brown rice.
Makes 4 servings.
— Adapted from “The Shun Lee Cookbook” by Michael Tong (William Morrow, 2007)