Szechuan Spicy Eggplant (鱼香茄子) combines a savory, sweet, sour, and spicy sauce with crispy and moist eggplant. It turns people from eggplant haters into eggplant lovers.
Szechuan spicy eggplant (Yu Xiang Qie Zi, 鱼香茄子), or fish fragrant eggplant, turns people from hating eggplant into loving it. I’m not bluffing here. Actually, Chinese cuisine provides many ways to cook very nice eggplant dishes and this is one of them. Every time I’ve taken friends from overseas to have local Chinese food, they were surprised that eggplant could be so flavorful and delicious.
Where is the Fish?
The original name of this spicy eggplant can be translated into fish fragrant eggplant directly from Chinese. It is a signature dish in Szechuan cuisine. Although it has fish in its name, the recipe is actually has nothing to do with fish. The dish uses a Szechuan style seasoning called fish fragrant (Yu Xiang, 鱼香). Supposedly, this seasoning was originally intended to be used with fish, but people found it great with a lot of other ingredients too.
Fish fragrant seasoning contains soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chili and healthy amounts of fresh ginger, garlic and green onion. The sauce gives you a subtle salty-sweet-sour flavor with a hint of spiciness. You can use this seasoning in all sorts of dishes, including with pork, chicken, eggplant, tofu and bamboo shoots.
The Secret to Cooking Better Eggplant
If you have ever had fish fragrant eggplant at a local Chinese restaurant, you’ll be surprised at how crispy, shiny and flavorful the eggplant is. However, the great texture and taste come at a price – deep fried eggplant is cooked in a pool of oil, and more oil is added in the stir-frying process, which significantly increases the calories in the dish. In this recipe, I will introduce a way to cook this dish with less oil, resulting in a healthier dish. Instead of using a wok, I tried to get the best results using a nonstick skillet. I know it might not sound authentic, but trust me, there are good reasons to use a nonstick skillet instead of a wok and still get very authentic and delicious stir-fried dish.
The secret to using less oil to prepare this dish (and still yield great results) is pre-soaking eggplant in salted water, then rubbing it with cornstarch. This way, you won’t need to deep fry the eggplant to get a crispy and charred texture, and this means you can reduce the oil from more than 1 cup down to 2 tablespoons. Also, a high quality non-tick skillet with a heavy bottom helps to create better seared texture in stir-fried dishes.
The recipe may look a bit long, but if you follow the cooking video below, you’ll find that it’s really easy to cook. If you’re not so confident cooking eggplant, or if this is your first time trying to cook a Chinese dish, you’re looking at the right post! The recipe and the cooking video will help you go through all the details, and allow you to make a healthy and delicious dish! 🙂
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel. I have a collection of cooking videos that is focused on Chinese cuisine, which will help become familiar with preparing Chinese dishes in a very short time.
- 1 large long eggplant (300 grams / 10 ounces), cut into strips
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinkiang Vinegar (black rice vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 100 grams (3.5 ounces) ground pork
- 1 teaspoon Doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
- 2 fresh Thai chili peppers, chopped (or 1 pepper for less spicy dish)
- Add eggplant and 1 teaspoon salt into a large pot of water and mix well. Place a lid on top of the eggplant to keep it submerged in the water. After 10 to 15 minutes, drain the eggplant and dry it thoroughly with a paper towel. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cornstarch over the eggplant, 1 teaspoon at a time, and rub it by hand to coat all eggplant strips well.
- Combine light soy sauce, vinegar, Shaoxing wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, sugar and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl, mix well, and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a big nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, after about 2 minutes, carefully add eggplant and stir fry until the eggplant turns soft and golden brown on the outside (* see footnote 1), 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add 1 teaspoon oil, garlic and ginger, and give it a stir. Add ground pork and stir fry until surface of pork turns white, about 1 minute. Add Doubanjiang and continue stirring constantly until pork mixes with the paste and turns dark red, about 1 minute. Add Thai pepper and eggplant and give it a stir. Evenly pour the mixed fish fragrant sauce (from step 2) over the eggplant and stir immediately to mix everything well, for 1 - 2 minutes. (optional) Turn to lowest heat and taste the eggplant (be careful, the eggplant will be very hot!). Adjust flavor by sprinkling a bit more salt or sugar, then turn to medium heat and use a spatula to mix everything well again (*see footnote 2). Stop heat and transfer eggplant with the pork and sauce to a plate.
- Serve warm with steamed white rice.
2. The type of soy sauce, vinegar and Doubanjiang used greatly affect the taste and saltiness of the final dish. The types I used in this recipe are relatively normal and easy to find, but everyone has different pantries, and don't afraid to add a bit more sugar or salt if something doesn't taste right.
The nutrition facts are generated from 1 of the 2 servings generated from the recipe.
The post was updated on 21st Oct. 2014.