Crispy Eggplant with Fish Fragrant Sauce

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4–6

    as part of a banquet

Appears in

Mr Hong

By Dan Hong

Published 2014

  • About

This dish was created by one of my old sous chefs, Victor Liong, after he ate at Dainty Sichuan, Melbourne. Fish fragrant sauce doesn’t actually have any fish in it, but the sweet, sour and spicy elements in the sauce are traditionally used to cook Sichuan fish dishes, and it gives this dish its name.

Ingredients

Fish Fragrant Sauce

  • 450 g (1 lb) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100 g ( oz) liquid glucose
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) light soy sauce
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) Chinese red vinegar
  • 70 g ( oz) soy paste
  • tablespoons Chinkiang black vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chilli bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons Lao Gan Ma chilli oil (with peanuts)
  • 1 tablespoon very finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 3 bird’s eye chillies, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground Sichuan pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 50 g ( oz/ cup) sesame seeds

The Batter

  • 15 g (½ oz) xanthan gum
  • 60 g ( oz) rice flour
  • 60 g ( oz) tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

The Rest

  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 6 Japanese eggplants (long thin aubergine), peeled, cut into batons about 5 × 1.5 cm (2 × 5/8 inch)
  • sprigs from ½ bunch coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
  • 2 small long red chillies, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fried shallots (Essentials)
  • 1 small handful of baby coriander leaves and sesame seeds, to garnish

Method

Fish Fragrant Sauce

Put the sugar and liquid glucose in a large saucepan and add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) water. Whisk over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar, then increase the heat to high, stirring until the mixture starts to boil. Keep boiling until the temperature reaches 120°C (235°F).

Add the remaining sauce ingredients, stir to combine and leave it to simmer for 1 hour. At the end, you should have a glazy caramel-like consistency, which coats the back of a spoon. This sauce can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 months.

The Batter

Put the xanthan gum and 550 ml (19 fl oz) water into a bowl. Whizz with a hand-held blender until it has a thick, viscous consistency. Blend in the rice and tapioca flours, followed by the salt. The result should be a fairly goopy, but smooth batter.

The Rest

Fill a large wok or deep-fryer one-third full with oil and heat to 180°C (350°F) or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 15 seconds. Dip the pieces of eggplant into the batter then gently lower them into the oil one by one. Fry in batches for about 5 minutes per batch. Don’t fiddle around with the eggplant too much in the first 2–3 minutes to allow the batter to firm properly. After about 3 minutes the exterior will harden and you can use a pair of tongs to separate any pieces that have stuck together in the oil. Continue cooking until the 5-minute mark. Drain on paper towels.

To Serve

Put the eggplant in a bowl and pour about 100 ml ( fl oz) of the fish fragrant sauce on top. Using a large spoon, give everything a stir to make sure each piece of eggplant is evenly coated. Add the coriander sprigs and chillies and mix through. Divide between four to six bowls and top with the spring onions and fried shallots. Sprinkle with baby coriander leaves and sesame seeds.