The countryside in southern China is ridiculously gorgeous. Bright green rice paddies surround the old mountains and we could ride bicycles everywhere. A local woman made us this simple dish at her home: the tasty vegetarian offering was a welcome respite after many stir-fries that included all the bones and bits. Soaking the aubergines in water before cooking keeps them plump and juicy.
Place the chopped eggplant in a bowl of lightly salted water and stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry well on a clean tea towel (dish towel).
To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the eggplant until browned on all sides. Keep the heat medium-high so they brown nicely; don’t turn them too early but let them get a nice colour first. When browned, add the onion and chilli and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.
Add the sauce, cover with a lid and simmer for 1-2 minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened and all the flavours have melded together.
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