Eggplant in the Style of Fish

Yuxiang Qiez

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: Reddish-Brown: Yuxiang

    There is nothing fishy about this dish except its name. Yuxiang is a classic Szechwanese method of preparing food that employs the condiments and seasoning agents traditionally used in cooking fish. Fish were scarce in Szechwan, and Mrs. Chiang thinks that it was possible that yuxiang dishes were created to compensate for that fact. Foods prepared in the style of fish differ from similarly spicy and reddish colored specialties of Szechwan because they contain sugar and vinegar. These two ingredients give a mildly sweet and sour taste to an already intricate and peppery combination of flavors. Eggplant is the perfect vegetable for such a treatment. Its smooth, absorbent flesh and unctuous flavor complement rather than compete with the sharp tastes and interesting textures of the other ingredients.

    Again, this recipe, like others in the book, insists on fresh water chestnuts. If you can’t get them, forget them.

    Method

    Preparation

    3 dried black mushrooms

    cup tree ears

    2 cups boiling water, approximately

    Put the dried mushrooms and tree ears in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set them aside to soak for at least 15 minutes.
    1 large eggplant Peel the eggplant, then cut it into pieces about 3 inches long and ½ inch wide.
    6 fresh water chestnuts (optional) Cut off the black outer skin of the water chestnuts. Rinse them, then cut them into shreds about ⅛ inch wide, the width of a wooden matchstick.
    4 scallions Clean the scallions, then cut them, both the white part and about half the green, into 1-inch lengths. Slice each piece lengthwise into several shreds.
    10 cloves garlic Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your cleaver, then peel. Chop the garlic into small pieces, about the size of grains of uncooked rice.

    1-inch piece fresh ginger

    (mushrooms)

    (tree ears)

    Peel the ginger and cut it into shreds the same size as the water chestnuts.

    Drain the mushrooms and tree ears. Remove the hard stems from the mushrooms and slice the caps into shreds the same size as the water chestnuts. Rinse the tree ears carefully under running water, making sure you remove all the impurities, like little pieces of wood, that may still be embedded in them. Then slice them into shreds.

    Cooking

    ½ cup peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a high flame for 15 seconds, then pour in the oil. It will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.

    (garlic)

    (ginger)

    When the oil is ready, quickly toss in the garlic and ginger. Stir them around for 30 seconds in the hot oil with your cooking shovel or spoon. Don’t worry if they turn brown very quickly; just don’t let them burn.

    1 tablespoon hot pepper paste

    (mushrooms)

    (tree ears)

    Quickly add the hot pepper paste, the shredded mushrooms, and the tree ears. Stir-fry them, together with the garlic and ginger, for about 45 seconds.

    (water chestnuts)

    (eggplant)

    1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    Now add the water chestnuts, eggplant, and sugar to the pan. Stir-fry for another 45 seconds, using your cooking shovel or spoon in a continuous scooping motion to spread the eggplant around in the pan.

    1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

    1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

    Add the vinegar and salt and stir-fry for about 1 minute 45 seconds.
    (scallions) Add the shredded scallions and the soy sauce and stir-fry everything for another 1-½ minutes.

    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    ¾ cup water

    Finally pour in the water. Wait until it comes to a boil, then cover the pan, without reducing the flame, and cook the eggplant for about 15 minutes more, until it is slightly mushy. Then serve.