Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant

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Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant with Minced Pork

Eggplant is my favorite vegetable – especially the long and skinny Japanese variety. It is so savory with its ability to soak up sweet, vinegary, and salty flavors – all hallmarks of this classic Sichuan dish. In Chinese, the dish is called “yu xiang qiezi” – or “fish-fragrant” eggplant. Traditionally, red chilis pickled in brine with fresh carp is used, hence the “fish-fragrant” taste. In my recipe, I’ve substituted a Guilin-style Chinese chili, which is vegetarian and may be easier to find at Asian grocery stores.

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1. Fresh ingredients – eggplant, green onion, ginger, garlic.
2. Fresh ground pork

People often tell me that the hardest part about cooking at home is not the actual cooking itself, but shopping for (and sometimes just merely remembering to shop for) ingredients. Others complain that many recipes call for ingredients and condiments that not only do they not already have in their kitchens/pantries, but can’t justify purchasing for the lack of options or ideas for future use. While the list of seasonings in this recipe may seem daunting, they can easily become staples in your own kitchen for use in many other easy-to-make Chinese recipes.

The idea behind this blog is that most of my recipes can be easily created in any kitchen inexpensively with minimal fuss and time investment. But with many quality dishes such as the eggplant in this post, having the right ingredients is a must and I encourage you to purchase these sauces (they are all ~$2-4 at most Asian grocery stores) and use them again in future recipes. For ideas on other dishes that the sauces in this recipe can be used for in the future, please see the end of this post as I have listed a number of options.

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Seasonings

The key to the savory qualities of this dish lies in the chili sauce and in the ground bean sauce. There is something about chili and garlic and fermented soybean paste that makes the eggplant burst with umami. And the aroma too is unbelievable – I live in a 3 story house with the kitchen on the ground floor, and my roommate on the 3rd floor tells me she can smell this dish cooking from all the way up in her bedroom. The ginger in this dish helps cut the rawness of the pork and adds a spicy zing to the eggplant.

I have also included an option to make this dish vegetarian with the use of dried shitake mushrooms. Hopefully this dish can satiate all palates, meat lovers and otherwise!

For handy printable recipe, click HERE

Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant (recipe)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5-7 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ lb. ground pork
      • For a vegetarian version, substitute with 6 large dried shitake mushrooms
  • 2 large Japanese eggplants (~9” length)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • Seasonings
      • 1 TBSP Guilin style chili sauce
      • 1 TBSP ground bean sauce
      • 1 TBSP dark soy sauce
      • ½ TBSP hoisin sauce
      • 1.5 TBSP rice vinegar
      • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch + 2 TBSP water
  • 2 sprigs green onion, sliced (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS (with pork)

  1. Finely mince garlic cloves and ginger. Slice eggplant into ~1” cubes.
  2. Mix 1 tsp cornstarch with 2 TBSP water and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 TBSP oil in a non-stick pan. Add minced garlic and ginger and sauté on high heat until sizzling and fragrant, being careful not to burn garlic.
  4. Add ground pork, browning the meat. When almost no more pink meat is visible, add seasonings (chili sauce, ground bean sauce, dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, sugar) and stir, mixing well.
  5. Add eggplant and the cornstarch + water mixture. Mix well, cover, and let simmer for 2 minutes on high heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. Reduce heat to medium. Keep pan covered and simmer for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Eggplant is done when its flesh is no longer white and appears slightly translucent on all sides.
  7. Remove from heat and garnish with sliced green onion. Serving suggestion: serve over white rice.

DIRECTIONS (vegetarian)

  1. Soak 6 large dried shitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes, flipping them to the other side at 15min. Remove woody stems and finely dice mushrooms.
  2. Follow above steps 1-3.
  3. Add diced mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute. Add seasonings (chili sauce, ground bean sauce, dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, sugar) and stir, mixing well.
  4. Follow above steps 5-7.


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Notes on ingredients and ideas for future use

I promise to put up recipes for some of these dishes in the future!

Guilin-style chili sauce: I like the Lee Kum Kee brand, which I have been able to find easily at Asian grocery stores even out here in Missouri.

  • Sauté vegetables (e.g. broccoli) with some garlic and this chili sauce
  • Use in making mapo tofu!
  • Use in making zhazhangmian (noodles with bean sauce)

Ground bean sauce: Super versatile and also readily available at Asian grocers.

  • Also use in mapo tofu and zhazhangmian!
  • Add some to ramen noodles for an extra kick
  • Use in sautéing sliced beef and Chinese broccoli

Dark soy sauce: Used for coloring dishes rather than to add a lot of saltiness. Adds a nice soy fragrance to dishes

Hoisin sauce: A popular condiment for pho, barbequed pork, mushu pork, etc.

  • Use as a flavoring for sautéed vegetables
  • Add to soupy noodles!
  • Use in a marinade for chicken
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2 thoughts on “Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant

    • Thanks Monica you’re so sweet! I keep remembering what you said to me the other day when I said that the ingredients to my hot & sour soup can be made from pantry items. “What you have in your pantry is probably different than what other people have” lol. So I will definitely try to include notes on ingredients if I think they might not be as commonplace in other peoples’ kitchens 🙂

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