A classic example of the complex flavour balancing that goes into Sichuan food. Salty, sweet, sour, and hot cover the soft, silken eggplant for a delectable experience- especially over rice. The sauce, which contains no fish, hearkens to an era when home cooks elevated vegetables in the absence of readily available meat.
- 750 g Chinese eggplant, halved and cut into 2 inch pieces
- Oil for frying
- 1½ Tbsp Doubanjiang
- 1 Tbsp chopped ginger
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
- 150 ml stock or water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp black vinegar
- 1 tsp corn starch mixed into 1 tsp water
- 4 green onions, sliced
- sesame oil for garnish
Pour enough oil to cover the eggplant into a wok and put over high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, fry the eggplant pieces in batches until they begin to brown, about 3-4 minutes.
Remove, place on a paper towel to soak up excess oil and set aside.
Pour out most of the oil, leaving only a couple of tablespoons for the sauce. Add the doubanjiang and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the garlic and ginger, stir well, and fry for another minute or so.
Add the stock, sugar, soy sauce and vinegar and stir until the sauce is uniform. Simmer for a minute or two to allow the flavour to meld.
Add the eggplant, then the corn starch and stir gently. Add the green onions and stir one last time.
Remove from heat and splash on a small spoonful of sesame oil.
* Recipe adapted from Fuschia Dunlop’s Sichuan Cuisine
Fragrant, delicate, with a long-lasting but inoffensive acidity, black vinegar is made from double-fermented black glutinous rice. The older Shanxi black vinegar, Lao Chen Cu, is sealed and aged for a deep, caramel-like flavour. The newer Zhenjiang vinegar is sweeter and more forgiving. Use Zhenjiang vinegar for your Sichuan recipes unless aged vinegar is specifically called for. Never use balsamic vinegar.