Eggplant (Aubergine) is one of those vegetables that is transformed into an almost luxurious tasting dish with the right spices and sauces. And one of the most popular vegetable dishes in Sichuan cooking is “fish-fragrant eggplant”, an unfortunate literal translation of the Chinese name ( yuxiang qiezi) without the cultural nuance. It doesn’t contain any fish, or fish-based ingredients but rather the name comes from the method of preparation usually associated with fish in Sichuan Chinese cuisine that results in hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavours designed to thrill the tastebuds!
Ingredients (serves 4):
2 good-sized aubergines
groundnut or corn oil for deep-frying
1½ tbsp Sichuanese chilli bean paste
3 tsps finely chopped fresh ginger
3 tsps finely chopped garlic
1½ tsps white sugar
1½ tsps light soy sauce
¾ tsp potato flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
1½ tsps Chinkiang or Chinese black vinegar
4 spring onions
1 tsp sesame oil
1. Cut the aubergines into chunks. Sprinkle with 11/2 tsps of salt and leave for at least half an hour to extract the bitter juices.
2. In a wok heat the oil until it is ready for deep-frying (it should just be beginning to smoke. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until a light golden colour. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
3. Discard the frying oil in the wok. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil and add the chilli bean paste. Stir for a few seconds until the oil is red and aromatic. Add the ginger and garlic, continuing to stir.
4. In a bowl, mix together the stock, sugar, soy sauce and a pinch of salt. Add to the aubergines and simmer for a few minutes.
5. Add the potato flour mixture to the wok to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions, stir and serve, with a drizzle of sesame oil.