Saturday, November 17, 2012

Szechuan Eggplant

A quick and easy vegetarian stir fry made with eggplant, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.

I love Szechuan style food.  The combination of spicy and sweet with lots of ginger and garlic is so good.  I first had Szechuan eggplant as Chinese delivery and have been trying to duplicate it at home since. Here is my recipe, a combination of many online recipes and trial and error.  I think it's pretty good, and a great meatless meal (especially since eggplants are so easy for me to get, in Chinatown, and they are inexpensive).  If you can not find Japanese eggplants, you could probably use any that you can find. 


Makes enough for 2

Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
5-6 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
6-8 small Thai bird chillies or other chilli, sliced (about 1 tsp, optional)
5 medium Japanese eggplants (about 2 lbs), cut into 1 inch strips
1 onion, chopped
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce (optional)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 - 1 cup water
2 tsp sirracha or other chilli sauce

I like to prepare all of my ingredients before I begin cooking this will be stir fried at a high temperature and things go fast.

First, cut the eggplant.  I cut each eggplant, crosswise, into 3-4  sections.  Then I cut each section in half, lengthwise, and each half (lengthwise again) into 3-4 strips, see picture above.  This gives you good meaty pieces of  eggplant that hold their shape well.  When I've been in a hurry I have put the eggplants in my food processor and made 3mm crosswise slices, this works too, but I prefer the bigger chunks.  Sit eggplant aside in a large, covered bowl.

Next, mince the ginger and garlic, and slice the chillies.  Reserve these in a small bowl.  Then chop the onion and place it in another small bowl.

Then, make the sauce with soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, water and chilli sauce.  You can add as much or little chilli sauce as you prefer.  The oyster sauce is optional, it isn't always easy to find, and it is not vegetarian.  If you don't add the oyster sauce you may want to add more soy sauce, the recipe is still good with out the oyster sauce but I prefer it with.

Finally, heat a wok or large saute pan, with 1 Tbsp oil (veg, peanut, or canola), over medium high heat until the oil starts to glisten.  Fry 1/2 of the eggplant (I add a little salt while cooking, but the main saltyness will come from the soy sauce) until browned on the out side and soft in the middle (they should spit and sputter as soon as they hit the oil).  This should take about 5-8 minutes.  Remove first batch of eggplant and do the same with the second.  I do it in two batches because I want all of the eggplant pieces to come into contact with the pan so that they brown nicely.  Remove the second batch of eggplant and add the onion to the pan (with more oil) cook for about a minute then add garlic mixture and stir around until fragrant.  Add the eggplant back in, lower heat to low and add the sauce.  Stir to mix thoroughly, and let sauce reduce a little.  I like to have a good sauce with my eggplant, so add extra water as necessary.  I cracked some Szechuan peppercorns over top, but this is not a must, I like to add them because I have them but if you don't have them you won't miss them. Immediately serve over steamed rice, garnish with sliced green onions for some color.

This is a great meat free meal that is quite filling, if you would like a side to go with it, wilted/cooked greens would be great, especially Asian greens like bok choy.  Enjoy.

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