Sichuan Stir-Fried Eggplant
This traditional Sichuan dish combines tingly spice and caramelized sugar with sour and savory flavors into an addicting flavor. Getting it right requires careful timing and high heat – the signatures of Chinese wok stir fry.
The eggplant in this dish is often deep fried, but we use soaking to cut down on the oil. And we add one tablespoon of sugar, equivalent to 50 calories and 5% of your daily carbs: a small indulgence to achieve the crucial balanced sweetness.
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 large Chinese eggplants
1 teaspoon of ground Sichuan pepper
1 tablespoon Chinese soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon doubanjiang (豆瓣酱)
2 tablespoons yellow wine
4 cloves of garlic
1 cm piece of ginger
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon chili crisp (老干妈)
Optional: Chopped scallions for garnish
STEP 1: Cut the Eggplant
Use a traditional Chinese roll cut on the eggplant to create a diamond-shaped bite with lots of surface area to contact the sauce. Hold your knife at a 45 degree angle and make a cut. Roll the eggplant 90 degrees, move the knife down 4 centimeters, and cut again at the same angle.
Step 2: Soak the Eggplant
Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl or pot and fill with water to cover. Soak for one hour. The eggplants will fill with water, which prevents them from absorbing oil later, enabling an even fry with less oil.
Step 3: Prepare the Sauce
Mix the Sichuan pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, doubanjiang, and wine. Set aside.
Step 4: Mix Seasonings
Chop the garlic and ginger finely, then mix them with the sugar and the chili crisp (in a different bowl from the sauce). Set aside.
Step 5: Stir-fry the Eggplant
When the eggplant is done soaking, turn the stove to medium heat and put a wok or skillet over it. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the eggplant before the oil heats up, to prevent splashing hot oil. Stir with a spatula immediately to coat evenly in oil. Stir fry for 5 to 6 minutes, until the eggplant starts to char and looks wrinkly and soft. Then remove the eggplant from the wok.
Step 6: Prepare the Pan
The next steps will move quickly and rely on a hot wok to get the proper flavor. Have the sauce, seasonings, and eggplant bowls in reach. Turn the stove to high , put the empty wok on and add a final tablespoon of oil. Swish it around the bottom of the pan.
Step 7: Mix in Seasonings
Add the garlic, ginger, and sugar to the oil and stir immediately. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves in the oil.
Step 8: Add Eggplant & Sauce
Add the eggplant and prepared sauce. Stir immediately. Continue to stir, getting under the eggplant and turning everything over repeatedly to cook evenly. It’s done when most of the liquid in the pan has dried off, leaving an even dark caramelized color on the eggplant. Turn off the heat at this point.
Step 9: Garnish & Serve
Transfer the dish to a serving plate. Cut up the scallions finely and sprinkle on top to garnish.