Hannah Che's Fish-Fragrant Eggplant (Yúxiāng Qiézi)

Golden and buttery fried eggplants tossed in a garlic and ginger hot, sour, and sweet sauce.

fish fragrant eggplant

Hannah Che

If you aren’t a fan of eggplant, it’s because you haven’t had this dish yet. Sichuan cooks fry eggplant until it’s golden and buttery, then braise it briefly in a sweet-and-sour sauce. This double cooking transforms the eggplant’s rather chewy, bland, spongy flesh into buttery and tender morsels that melt in the mouth, made irresistibly heady with garlic and enlivened by hot pickled red chiles and ginger.

According to legend, the dish originated along the coast of the Yangtze River in Sichuan, where fishermen often cooked the fish they caught using a pungent mixture of chiles, ginger, and garlic. Today the “fish-fragrant” flavor is a standard in the canon of Sichuan cooking, with its distinctive hot, sour, and sweet profile.

Reprinted with permission from "The Vegan Chinese Kitchen" by Hannah Che copyright © 2022. Photographs by Hannah Che. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. 

Hannah Che's Fish-Fragrant Eggplant (Yúxiāng Qiézi)

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 8 mins
Soak Time 15 mins
Total Time 28 mins
Servings 4 servings


For the sauce

  • 1/2 cup unsalted stock of any kind or water

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Chinkiang black vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon potato starch

For the eggplant

  • 1 pound (450g) long Chinese or Japanese eggplants (about 3 small)

  • Kosher salt

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • 1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan chili bean paste or pickled chili paste

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts kept separate


  1. Make the sauce:

    In a small bowl, whisk all the sauce ingredients until blended. Set aside.

  2. Prep the eggplant:

    Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 3-inch sections, then slice them into 1/2-inch wedges. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups (720 mL) water and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and whisk until the salt dissolves, then submerge the eggplant and soak for 15 minutes. Drain and pat the wedges dry. Salting helps relax the flesh, reduce any bitterness, and prevent it from soaking up excessive oil.

  3. Cook the eggplant:

    Heat about 1 1/2 cups (360 mL) oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the eggplant lightly in the starch. When the oil reaches 375°F (190°C), fry the eggplant in batches, flipping and turning it occasionally to cook evenly, until the edges are slightly golden and the skin is glossy purple and wrinkled, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the cooked eggplant to a paper towel–lined plate. Pour the oil into a heatproof container and reserve for another use, leaving about 1 tablespoon oil in the wok.

    Return the wok to the stove over medium heat and add the chili bean paste. Stir-fry over low heat until its red oil is released, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallion whites and stir-fry until just aromatic, about 30 seconds more. Push the aromatics up one side of the wok and pour the sauce mixture into the center.

    Gently fold the fried eggplant into the sauce and simmer for about 2 minutes, until the eggplant has absorbed the flavors and the liquid is thickened from the starch. Transfer to a plate, garnish with the scallion greens, and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
202 Calories
4g Fat
40g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 202
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 733mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 15%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 6mg 29%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 449mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.