If you've ever ordered eggplant from a dim sum cart or the a la carte menu at an authentic Chinese restaurant, you know that this is one Chinese vegetarian offering that is doggone delicious!
It can however present some challenges in cooking and that is the amount of oil used.
We all know just how much of a sponge eggplant can be when it comes to oil and cupfuls can disappear in its pores only to be released later. And so you can end up with fried eggplant in a veritable 'oil soup'.
Don't get me wrong, I love a nice bit of chili oil to go with my rice but we all know, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
Fantastic over steamed rice, this makes such a nice addition to the Asian food repertoire in our kitchens.
But keep reading because there is a nifty little trick that gets rid of excess oil but keeps all of that flavor!
Spicy Eggplant, Sichuan Style
4 long Asian eggplants
30 stalks Chinese chives (to yield 2 cups - 2" long pieces)
1-1/2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger root
2-3 cups canola or vegetable oil for deep frying.
1/4 cup Chinese chili bean sauce (douban jiang)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. water. Combine and set aside
2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
steamed jasmine rice for serving
Set a pot of water to boil.
Chives: Snip and discard the blossoms. Cut and discard the bottom 1" hard stalks. Cut the rest of the stalks into 2" lengths.
Eggplant: Cut the eggplant into thirds. And then cut lengthwise into 1/2" thick matchstick (about 4-6 pieces per cross section)
Create a ice water bath in a bowl with 1/2 tbs salt. Soak the eggplant pieces for 5-10 minutes. Drain and pat dry completely between kitchen paper towels.
In a wok, heat the oil till very hot. Drop the eggplant in the hot oil in batches and fry for about 2-3 minutes until the skin is a little blistered and eggplant is cooked.
Remove from pan and lay eggplant pieces on paper towels. Once all the eggplant has been fried, place in a large bowl and cover completely in hot boiling water. Allow it to soak for 5 minutes to remove excess oil from the eggplant. Once again drain the water in a sieve and then gently pat dry between kitchen paper towels.
Remove all but 2 tbsp. of oil from pan. Reserve excess oil for later use.
Add the chopped garlic & ginger. Saute for few seconds on medium-high heat till fragrant. Add the Chinese chives and continue cooking for another minute or so until they are glossy green.
Add the eggplant and stir. Add the sauce and continue cooking to gently stir until the eggplant and sauce is warmed through. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Good to know: Though there should be some oil in this vegetable, if you are uncomfortable with any excess oil, drain away or pat away with kitchen paper towels before plating.
Drizzle with black vinegar, sesame oil and remove to a serving platter.
Sprinkle with some chopped chives if desired and serve immediately with steamed Jasmine rice.