Sichuan Eggplant

This recipe calls for asian eggplants, or Japanese eggplants. They are long and thin compared to a European or globe eggplant, and much more tender and delicate. If you can't find them you can substitute globe eggplant, but the dish is really best with the asian eggplant.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. asian (long and skinny) eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock for vegetarian)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 - 1 1/2 tablespoons chili bean paste*
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed sichuan peppercorns** (optional, but inauthentic without)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 4 scallions, roughly chopped
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)

*A lot of grocery stores have Asian ingredient aisles now. You should be able to find chili-bean paste, a mixture of preserved chilies mixed with mashed soybeans, there or at any Asian market. (Do not confuse with black bean paste or chili-garlic paste.)

**Sichuan peppercorns are available at some stores and online for quite cheap. They aren't spicy like other peppers but rather have a citrusy flavor and induce a tingly, numbing sensation like a carbonated drink.

Method

1 Prep eggplant, chili sauce, cornstarch slurry, vinegar and scallions: Begin your mise en place. Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and chop into large batons and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the chicken stock, sugar, and soy sauce and set it aside.

In a second bowl, mix together the chili bean paste, garlic, ginger, and sichuan peppercorns and set it aside.

In a third bowl, mix together the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and set it aside.

Lastly, in a fourth bowl, mix together the scallions and vinegar and set it aside.

2 Sauté eggplant: Place the oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil is almost smoking. Add the eggplant and sauté, allowing it to sit for a few seconds each time you move it to allow it to brown and blister. If the eggplant absorbs all the oil and some pieces don't get any then add a little more oil.

3 Add the chili bean paste, garlic, ginger, and sichuan peppercorns and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4 Add the chicken stock mixture, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 90 seconds.

5 Add the cornstarch mixture and stir together until the sauce thickens a bit.

6 Add the scallions and vinegar and cook for 15 seconds to diffuse their harsh flavors a bit.

Garnish with cilantro and serve.