Szechuan Eggplants

魚香茄子

This is a stimulating stir-fried dish, full of seductive aromas. Dark and gleaming, each piece of eggplant is plump and soft, and a wonderful complex of flavors comes through—hot, sour, salty, sweet.

Ingredients

  • pounds small eggplants
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili-pepper oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely minced
  • 4 quarter -sized slices peeled ginger, coarsely minced
  • 1 small whole scallion, finely chopped

Seasonings

  • 2 tablespoons bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon roasted and crushed Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method

Rinse and dry the eggplants and cut off the stems. Do not peel. Quarter them lengthwise and cut each quarter into 2-inch wedges. Place them with the garlic, ginger, and scallions on your working platter. Mix the seasonings in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved. In another bowl, dissolve the cornstarch with the water and sesame oil.

Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat for 30 seconds; add the 2 oils, swirl, and heat for 30 seconds. Scatter in the garlic, ginger, and scallions and stir rapidly for 15 seconds. Then add the eggplant wedges and stir with a spatula in flipping and light pressing motions for 2 minutes, to expose them to the oil. Turn heat to medium high and continue to flip and press lightly for 4 more minutes, until the wedges are slightly browned and flattened. Do not press them hard, lest they break and become messy.

Turn heat high; give the seasonings a stir and pour over the eggplants. Stir in scooping motions for 30 seconds; give the cornstarch mixture a stir and add to the sauce. Toss briefly, then pour into a hot serving dish.

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