I don't eat a lot of eggplant but when I do, I like to make Chinese eggplant with spicy garlic sauce. The spongy eggplant soaks up the sauce and flavor, making it a great vegetable dish tag along with a bowl of hot jasmine rice! My version of Yu Xiang Qie Zi (魚香茄子), which is a Sichuan dish, is a bit simplified. The literal translation of the name is "fish-fragrant eggplant" although there is no fish or fish flavor in the dish. The name "Yu Xiang" (魚香) refers to the cooking method of using chili peppers, scallion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and vinegar, and it's the same method that was first introduced as how a fish would be cooked in Sichuan cuisine. A seasoning stable in Sichuan cooking is the board bean paste called "Dou ban jiang" (豆瓣醬) which is also used in the classic Sichuan spicy eggplant dish.
I love this part when the garlic, ginger, scallion, and chili peppers get cooked. It produces such an amazing aroma that fills the kitchen.
The original spicy eggplant dish requires deep-frying the eggplant first which I think most people skip these days. If you can get your hand on some Sichuan dried or pickled chili pepper, that‘s what you should use. I went with long green hot pepper instead because I couldnt find any Sichuan peppers at my local Asian grocery store. (I know, right? Of all the funky things an Asian grocer carries, there's actually something they don't have. Shocker!) The other thing that an authentic Chinese eggplant with spicy garlic sauce recipe called for is black vinegar (and if you must, you can substitute with balsamic vinegar). I also to had to throw in a teaspoon of Huy Fong's garlic chili sauce to add an extra punch to the flavor. Come on, I was cooking an Asian spicy dish, I simply just couldn't resist!
While writing this post, I stumbled upon a blogger who's based in China and focuses on Sichuan cooking. So if you're interested in Sichuan food, do pay a visit to China Sichuan Food for some authentic Sichuan recipes.
Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce (魚香茄子)
- 2 Chinese Eggplant, cut into matchstick-like pieces (don't cut them any smaller than 1/2 inch or it won't hold its shape when it's cooked.)
- 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tbsp finely chopped scallion
- 1/2 tbsp thin-sliced long green hot peppers
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tbsp black (Chinkiang) vinegar (brands like Lee Kum Kee or Koon Chun)
- 1 tsp Huy Fong's garlic chili sauce 1/2 tsp sugar
Optional but highly recommend:
- 2 tbsp Doubanjiang (豆瓣醬)
- Heat 2 tbsp of oil on medium-high heat, twirl the pan around a couple of times so the oil gets spread throughout the cooking surface.
- Cook the eggplant pieces in a single layer for 1 minute, then flip them over and cook for another minute.
- Make some room in the middle of the pan by pushing the eggplant to the sides. Then add 1 tbsp of oil in the middle, add the garlic, ginger, scallion, and hot peppers. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then stir the eggplant into the mix and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes until the eggplant starts to soften.
- Add the soy sauce, black vinegar, cooking wine, doubanjiang, and sugar. Stir to make sure the all the sauces are integrated. Serve immediately.