Szechuan Spicy Eggplant (鱼香茄子)

Szechuan Spicy Eggplant (鱼香茄子) - the crispy eggplant is cooked in a rich spicy, sweet, sour and savory sauce | omnivorescookbook.comSzechuan 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.

Szechuan Spicy Eggplant (鱼香茄子) - the crispy eggplant is cooked in a rich spicy, sweet, sour and savory sauce | omnivorescookbook.com

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.

Szechuan Spicy Eggplant (鱼香茄子) - the crispy eggplant is cooked in a rich spicy, sweet, sour and savory sauce | omnivorescookbook.com

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.

Happy cooking!


5.0 from 5 reviews
Szechuan Spicy Eggplant (鱼香茄子)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve warm with steamed white rice.
Notes
1. The eggplant will get a bit sticky during stir-frying due to the cornstarch. Do not worry! Try to separate the eggplant strips with a spatula to get them evenly cooked. The cornstarch will give the eggplant a crispier texture.
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.

Fish Fragrant Eggplant Nutrition Facts | Omnivore's CookbookThe post was updated on 21st Oct. 2014.

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Share:
Meet Maggie

Born and raised in Beijing, Maggie now calls Texas home. She’s learned to love barbecue, but her heart belongs to the food she grew up with. For her, Omnivore’s Cookbook is all about introducing cooks to real-deal Chinese dishes, which can be as easy as a 30-minute stir-fry or as adventurous as making your own dim sum. Recipes, step-by-step photos and video are the tools she uses to share her knowledge—and her enthusiasm for Chinese food.

Never Miss a Recipe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  

30 thoughts on “Szechuan Spicy Eggplant (鱼香茄子)

  1. AvocadoPesot

    Beautiful photo! I learned how to make this dish during a cooking class in Dali China and loved it!

    Reply
  2. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I loved watching your video! Eggplant is my favorite veggies and this sounds really delicious. I always wish that they don’t absorb much oil while cooking. That’s one negative thing about this veggie, but I love that it absorb sauce… haha. Looks delicious!!!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I totally agree with you about eggplant absorbs too much oil! They don’t taste so great if cooking with less oil and I already tried my best to reduce the oil to minimum amount.
      I’m so glad you like my video. It really took time to shoot and do post edit, but it was a lot of fun! 🙂

      Reply
    2. Steve Salloom

      Nami & Maggie,

      My mother taught me this method to avoid eggplants from absorbing oils:

      1. Spread the sliced eggplant on a towel.
      2. Sprinkle Kosher salt on both surfaces of the sliced eggplant.
      3. Allow to rest for 45-60 minutes.
      4. Pat dry each surface.
      5. Do not rinse eggplants.

      This method will extract the moisture from the eggplants and will allow very little amount of oil to be absorbed. Most oil will be on the outside.

      Reply
      1. Maggie Post author

        Hi Steve, thanks for sharing your method and I will try out next time! I think it will work great on fried eggplant too. Hope you have a great week 🙂

  3. Trent @ Food Assault

    That looks fantastic……such vibrant colours. I, like many, didn’t like eggplant as a kid however love it now.

    One of my favourites is vegetarian lasagne made with eggplant. I’ll need to give this a try Maggie, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Trent, thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      Vegetarian lasagne sounds great. I just got a pasta machine from a friend, and I’d like to try it out with the freshly made pasta. 🙂

      Reply
      1. nicole (thespicetrain.com)

        This recipe is a winner! I made it today and it was a universal success. What a great idea to soak the eggplant strips in water!

        I substituted sake for Shaoxing wine and used sambal instead of Doubanjiang. Are these two ingredients reasonably close? Even if not, the dish tasted great! 🙂

      2. Maggie Post author

        Hi Nicole, I’m so glad to hear that you make this dish and found it delicious! Sake is very similar with Shaoxing wine but I never thought I can use sambal in this one! It sounds great too and I’ll remember to try it out myself. 🙂

    1. Maggie Post author

      Nope, no fish in this one.

      “Fish fragrant” is a special combination of condiments that commonly used in Szechuan cuisine. It is said the sauce was originally used for cooking fish, but when people tried the sauce with other dishes, they found they are all very tasty, for example fish fragrant pork.

      I think it’s similar to sweet sour sauce, goes well with everything. But this one has “fish” in the name, so sounds confusing.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Sichuan “Fish Fragrant” Eggplant with Bacon | Blossom to Stem

  5. Harvey

    tried this recipe today and it was pretty darn close to restaurant quality (but without the oil!)

    great technique. thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Harvey, thanks very much for leaving a comment and I’m so glad to hear you tried my recipe! Hope you enjoyed the dish and have a great day ahead! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Samantha

    This looks really good, I will try this next week. I’ve been steaming my eggplants before stir frying them. That really cuts down on the oil. I add salt and fish sauce while steaming the eggplants too.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Samantha, thanks for sharing the tips! I like fish sauce and it sounds lovely with the eggplant. I steam eggplant too, but only used it in cold dishes. I like the crispiness of eggplant in stir fried dishes, but it does use more oil. Ultimate dilemma!

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Eggplant | Julia's Rooted Kitchen

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Michael, I believe you can use malt vinegar as an alternative. And yes, you can leave out the wine and replace it with water. The wine adds a nice subtle flavor, but it won’t be a problem without it. Happy cooking and hope the dish turns out great 🙂

      Reply
  8. Kit

    So glad I found your website. Looks like my search is over! This is going to be my one-stop go to for Chinese recipes! I have been trying to find authentic chinese eggplant recipes and have tried so many not-so-good ones. I’m from Shanghai and I appreciate all food and I cook Italian and American on most days. But the fusion recipes on traditional dishes just don’t cut it for me. I tried this one tonight and love it! Thank you for sharing! Mapo Tofu is next.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Kit, I’m so glad to hear you tried my recipe and enjoyed the dish! Sorry to reply this so late. I’ve been traveling back to China this month and stayed offline most of the time. We cook a lot of Italian and American too (also Mexican!), but just like you said, I crave for the authentic Chinese dishes every now and then. I love Shanghai food, although some of them are very challenging to make. Soup dumpling is on my cooking list of 2016 🙂
      Please let me know if you want to learn a new recipe but couldn’t find on my blog! I’d love to develop the recipe for you!
      Happy cooking and Happy New Year!

      Reply
  9. Alona Orina

    i will give it a try tonight for I am planning to prepare healthy and yummy eggplant dish for my hubby. as eggplant is pone of our fave veggie, i am so bored with the same method i cook that is why I am searching different way of cooking eggplant and i came across to this. Thanks to this ms maggie, more power.

    Reply