I was really excited when I found out that my family would be moving to the heart of Sichuan Province-it’s a place known for its spice-it’s actually known for its food in general, but after 8 years of fairly mild cooking (Delicious, yes. Spicy, no.), I was excited to be moving to a place where my tongue would shoot flames and my nose would tingle in anticipation of its next meal…What I mean by that is, you can tell it’s hot when the heat reaches the tip of your nose.
And eggplant. I don’t know how the Chinese do it, but eggplant is always juicy and soft, with just enough of a distinct flavor and texture to serve it on its own. Often you see it decorated with little specks of red and green, and try as I might, I have yet to reproduce a true Szechuan eggplant…but I’m certainly having fun trying, and market day brings plenty of fresh herbs, ginger, and chili to make anything seem possible.
Today, I came pretty close…my eggplants may have needed another 2 or 3 minutes to cook through to fall apart creaminess, but it was good. Warning, the spice from this dish is not to be taken lightly. In fact, with the chili bean paste, you could probably skip the chilies altogether.
But, not only do I have a fantastic eggplant dish, but I served it with some plain noodles and some bright yellow scrambled eggs and herbs so that our palettes could take a quick breather every now and then…
Total prep/cook time was probably about 40 minutes…
I toned this down for my son by separating the ingredients, cooking them on their own and then adding a few teaspoons of the premade sauce.
SPICY EGGPLANT ‘N” EGGS
2 Chinese or Japanese eggplants
¼ cup cooking wine
2 tsp cornstarch
¾ cup chicken broth
1 Tbs. Sichuan fermented chili-bean past (or chili-garlic sauce if not available)
3 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. vinegar (rice or cider)
2 Tbs. ginger, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 shoots of garlic stalks (if available at local Chinese market, or else substitute with 1-2 cloves garlic)
3 scallions, separate white and light green bits and the dark green (garnish!)
2-3 small red chilies, finely chopped
2 Tbs. freshly chopped cilantro (garnish..and flavor!)
¼ cup canola oil
Cut your eggplant into slices…I chose to cut them in short, medium-sized wedges. I had to cut my eggplant into 6 parts, then in half and then into either halves or thirds (I had two different sized eggplants). Put them into a bowl.
Then get garlic, ginger, chillies, and scallion white/light green parts together. Set aside
Now, mix all sauces: first put the cornstarch in a bowl and slowly add the wine, stirring. Then add the chicken broth, the bean paste, the soy sauce, and the vinegar.
Using a wok, heat the oil and toss in the eggplant, let sit for 1 minute then start to stir regularly so nothing burns. When the eggplant is almost cooked through you can add the aromatics (garlic, etc.) and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the sauce, cook for another 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat, garnish with green onions and cilantro, and serve.
Make scrambled eggs with some fresh herbs. Little to no salt. Make some noodles (of the Asian varieties if possible-think ramen or rice…). Drizzle some oil over the noodles so they don’t stick. Place at the bottom of a bowl, add eggplant, and eggs over the top. Serve warm.