Eggplant really doesn’t get enough love. The craze was brussels sprouts in 2012, kale in 2013, not too sure what the vegetable craze will be this year… but I’m hoping that eggplant will make it to the list in the near future because it’s a damn good (and healthy) vegetable that too many people find repulsive. People who say “it’s the texture” are just being narrow-minded. The texture of an eggplant is similar to a zucchini!
Fish Fragrant Eggplant (鱼香茄子) is a classic Sichuan homecooked dish. As Appetite in China (where I got my recipe) says, the name is deceiving because it isn’t meant to taste like fish at all. The flavor is associated with how fish is often prepared in Sichuan cuisine, hence the name. It’s super easy to make and goes great with a bowl of rice. Very few Chinese kids hate eggplant and I attribute that to them growing up with this very specific dish.
All you need is some scallions, ginger, garlic…
Heat up some oil and stir fry the eggplant until they start to brown and soften (just a few minutes). Eggplant does tend to soak up a lot of oil, so you may need more than you think. Add in the garlic and ginger and stir fry another few minutes until your kitchen smells glorious.
Add in the sauce: about 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of spicy bean paste, 2 tablespoons of water, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of rice wine, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Simmer until sauce thickens and eggplant is completely soft.
Sprinkle some scallions on top and you’re golden. The ratio of vinegar to soy sauce to sugar is pretty important because if it’s even slightly off, the dish will taste funny (too sour or too salty or too sweet). I also like how a lot of restaurants make this dish, which is to flash fry thinner cuts of eggplant first so that the texture is almost a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Less healthy of course.