EGGPLANT WITH GARLIC SAUCE
The Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong
This Sichuan dish is a first cousin of Broccoli with Garlic Sauce. Soft, silky eggplant is cooked with the same piquant sauce of hot bean paste, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and scallions, but the amounts of hot bean paste, sugar, and vinegar are increased, making the dish notably spicier.
Makes 4 servings
• 4 small Japanese eggplants (about 1 pound total), trimmed
• Vegetable oil, for passing through
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
• 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
• 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 1 scallion, white and green parts, trimmed and minced
• 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
• 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
• 1 tablespoon hot bean paste
• 1 teaspoon hot chili oil, optional
• 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Keep the water at a simmer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place it near the stove.
2. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the skin of the eggplants in a crosshatch pattern, with the lines about 1 inch apart. Halve or quarter the eggplants lengthwise to make sticks about 1/2 inch wide. Cut the sticks into 2-inch lengths.
3. Heat a large wok over high heat. Add enough oil to come about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the wok, and heat it to 325°F. Working in batches without crowding, add the eggplant to the oil and fry just until it softens but still holds its shape, about 45 seconds. Do not overcook. Using a wide wire-mesh strainer, dip the eggplant briefly in the hot water, then spread it out on the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, wiping the strainer dry after each frying. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok.
4. To begin the sauce, mix the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, rice wine, and white pepper in a small bowl, and set it aside. Dissolve the cornstarch in 3 tablespoons cold water in another small bowl, and set it aside.
5. Return the wok with the oil to high heat. Add the scallion, ginger, and garlic, and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the hot bean paste and the soy sauce mixture, and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the eggplant and stir-fry until the sauce is boiling and the eggplant is hot, about 30 seconds. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce thickens, about 10 seconds. Add the hot chili oil, if using, and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the sesame oil, and serve immediately.