Di San Xian (Stir Fried Eggplant, Potato and Pepper, 地三鲜)

5 from 16 votes
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Di San Xian features perfectly charred and crispy potato, eggplant, and pepper stirred with a savory garlicky sticky sauce. A simple veggie dish that makes a satisfying dinner served with a bowl of rice! {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Stir fried eggplant, potato and pepper close up

Di San Xian (地三鲜) is a signature northern Chinese dish from the Dongbei Region (or Northeast China), where my mom’s family comes from. When I was growing up in Beijing, it was a dish we frequently served at home and ate at restaurants.

The name Di San Xian means “three treasures from the ground”, referring to the potato, eggplant, and green pepper in the dish. These are the most common vegetables in any market in northern China and they also symbolize the end of the summer harvest. It’s also called stir fried three treasures, or stir fried three delicious in some restaurants. 

Like many other Northeast Chinese dishes, the cuisine emphasizes a family style presented in a rustic way that is often viewed as less elegant. However, the cooking method does turn these three plain vegetables into a feast that will have your mouth watering simply by looking at it!

Di San Xian in a pan

Why this recipe

To cook Di San Xian in restaurant style, you will need to quickly fry all the ingredients in hot oil in the wok. It is called Guo You (过油) in Chinese, or flash fry. It literally means to walk the ingredients through the oil. This process creates a lightly crispy crust on the outside of the veggies without using any batter, while keeping the inside al-dente.

When it comes to home cooking, I try to avoid deep frying as much as possible. So I’ve developed a few tricks to create crispy veggies with less oil and an easier process. The veggies will brown beautifully with a crispy char on the surface and tender inside, just like you’d find in a restaurant.

Stir fried eggplant, potato and pepper in garlic sauce

Ingredients

This is a perfect dish for the end of summer and fall because you might be able to find those beautiful Asian eggplants in the farmer’s market or at a regular grocery store. These days I’m delighted to find more and more of them outside of Chinatown. When they are out of season, you’ll probably need to run to the Asian market to find them.

Asian eggplants, red potatoes, and bell peppers

Cannot find Asian eggplant?

Although Asian eggplant generates better results, I’ve successfully cooked this dish with regular eggplant. As long as you follow the method in the recipe, your eggplant will turn out crispy.

Soak the eggplant in salt water for 15 to 20 minutes, dry it thoroughly, and then coat it with cornstarch. This is my default method for creating crispy eggplant without deep frying. The salt water will extract moisture from the eggplant, so it will not turn soggy during the cooking.

Stir fried eggplant, potato and pepper close up

How to cut the vegetables

Slice the potato into half-moon shapes instead of cutting it into wedges, so that both sides crisp up perfectly in the pan and the pieces will cook faster.

For the eggplant, I like to cut it into irregular shapes that are about bite-size, to create more crispy edges. 

Prep the ingredients

You should group the ingredients together so it’s easier to add them during the cooking. Plus it saves you some plates to clean up later.

You can use any type of potato in the dish. Russet potatoes will become a bit crispy on the outside and creamy inside. The yellow and red yukon potatoes will be a bit crispy throughout. I usually grab what happens to look best at the market.

Ingredients for making Di San Xian

Cooking process

  1. Coat the eggplant with cornstarch right before cooking
  2. Pan fry the potatoes until crispy
  3. Pan fry the eggplant until golden
  4. Gently cook the aromatics
  5. Briefly cook the peppers
  6. Pour in the sauce
  7. Add back the eggplant and potato
  8. Stir everything together
Di San Xian cooking step-by-step

TIP

Afterthought 

After making countless stir fry dishes, I’ve found again and again that cooking in small batches creates much better results. The recipe below only yields two servings (as a main) or 4 small servings as a side. You can always double the recipe, but remember that you need to pan fry the veggies in small batches to achieve the best outcome.

To enjoy Di San Xian, serve it hot on top of steamed rice or boiled noodles. I guarantee you’ll finish a big plate of it in no time!

Stir fried eggplant, potato and pepper in brown sauce

More Northeast China Recipes

Happy cooking and I hope you enjoy the dish!

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Perfectly charred and crispy potato, eggplant, and pepper stirred with a savory garlicky sticky sauce. A simple veggie dish that makes a satisfying dinner served with a bowl of rice! {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Di San Xian (Stir Fried Eggplant, Potato and Pepper, 地三鲜)

5 from 16 votes
Perfectly charred and crispy potato, eggplant, and pepper stirred with a savory garlicky sticky sauce. A simple veggie dish that makes a satisfying dinner served with a bowl of rice! {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}
To make the dish gluten-free, use tamari to replace both light and dark soy sauce, and use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main, Side
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: homestyle
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4

Ingredients

Sauce

Stir fry

  • 1/2 regular eggplant or 1 large Asian eggplants (around 10 ounces / 300 grams in total) , chopped into bite size pieces (*Footnote 2)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 small russet potato or 2 yukon potatoes (about 1/2 pound / 230 grams in total) , halved and sliced into 1/4-inch (1/2-cm) pieces
  • 1 bell pepper , chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 green onions , chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced

Instructions

If using regular eggplant:

  • Place eggplant into a large bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt. Add tap water to cover and stir to dissolve the salt. Use a small plate or a lid to cover the eggplant pieces and submerge them in the water. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Drain the eggplant and dry thoroughly with a paper towel. Sprinkle with cornstarch and gently mix by hand, until the eggplant pieces are lightly coated.

For the sauce

  • Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

To cook the stir fry

  • Heat a 12” pan (or a wok) with 1/3 cup oil over medium-high heat until hot. Spread the potato pieces in the pan without overlapping. Cook without moving until the bottom turns golden. Flip to cook the other side, until golden. Transfer the potatoes to a big plate.
  • Your pan should still have plenty of oil. Place the eggplant in the pan and spread the pieces without overlapping. Cook the eggplant without moving it until the bottom turns golden brown. If the oil in the pan is fully absorbed by the eggplant before cooking through, add a bit more oil to the pan. Turn to medium heat if the pan starts to smoke. Flip the pieces to cook the other side until golden brown. Transfer to a plate with the potatoes.
  • If your pan still has too much oil, carefully remove some of it with a folded paper towel and leave only about 1 teaspoon of oil in the pan. Add the green onion and garlic and stir a few times until fragrant.
  • Add the peppers and stir a few times to mix well.
  • Mix the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour the sauce into the pan. Stir a few times.
  • Return the eggplant and potato to the pan. Cook and stir until the sauce has thickened and evenly coated the vegetables. Transfer everything to a plate.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice as a main or as a side.

Notes

  1. Dark soy sauce adds an appetizing dark brown color to the sauce. Regular soy sauce will work just fine but your dish will turn out lighter in color.
  2. Regular eggplant contains more liquid and is more difficult to crisp up. You’ll obtain better results if you use Asian eggplant.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 185kcal, Carbohydrates: 15.5g, Protein: 1.9g, Fat: 13.7g, Saturated Fat: 2.3g, Sodium: 375mg, Potassium: 306mg, Fiber: 3.1g, Sugar: 6.2g, Calcium: 19mg, Iron: 1mg
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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Thomas says:

    Looks great! Reminds me of the good old days, eating this for lunch on 便宜街.

    • Maggie says:

      Glad you like it! Let me know the result if you decide to make it some time 🙂

      • Thomas says:

        5 stars
        I finally got around to making it and was really pleased with how it turned out! This meal definitely brought back good memories. 🙂

      • Maggie says:

        I’m so glad to hear you made this one and liked it! Happy cooking and have a great week ahead. 🙂

  2. Jen says:

    5 stars
    Thanks Maggie, for an authentic recipe for di san xian. I have lived in China for six years and this is the first recipe for Chinese food that tastes just as good as at our favorite local restaurant. Actually it’s even better because I can use bell peppers instead of the green hot peppers that are typically served with the dish here in Qingdao. It got a thumbs up from my husband and son even though I cooked the eggplant a little too long on one side.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Jen, thank you very much for trying out the recipe and leave me all the kind words. I started out this blog not so long ago and you are the first person who cooked my recipe. It means a lot to me and I will keep sharing more of my cooking experience. 🙂
      Happy cooking and bon appetit!

  3. Kim says:

    Thanks a lot for this delicious recipe!! I just had “Di san xian” at a Chinese restaurant here in Sweden and I totally loved it.. so I had to make it myself today :-)! It turned out very nice and I’m already excited to look through your other recipes!

    Greetings from Sweden!

    Kim

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Kim, I’m so glad that you cooked my recipe and liked it! 🙂
      Di San Xian is one of my favorite dishes too and very good way to eat a lot of vegetables!
      Looking forward for your visit to my site again and Bon Appétit! 🙂

  4. Jodie Navarre says:

    This is my third time to make di san qian, all in a week! I have been living in China for a little over a year and this is a great recipe and simple, thank you. I noticed the measurement for salt just says 1/2 though. I assume it was 1/2 teaspoon but I will actually leave it out next time to see what its like because the soy sauce brings some saltiness to it already. I also made it today with potatoes, mushrooms and slices of pork and it was yummy! Thanks so much, I will be checking out your other recipes.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Jodie, thanks very much for leaving a comment and correct my recipe! You’re right, I meant to say 1/2 teaspoon. Just updated the recipe now.
      I’m so glad to hear that you cooked my recipe and like it! You just made my day 🙂
      Yep, I agree that soy sauce might brought enough saltiness to the dish. Sometimes I tend to make a dish a bit saltier, so it will goes with steamed rice. But please do feel free to adjust the saltiness according to your taste bud and the type of soy sauce you use.
      Your idea sounds so great! I love using mushroom and pork in stir fried dish too. Will try out this combination next time! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Amalia says:

    Oh I’m so happy to finally have found this recipe, but do you know how to do 西红柿炒鸡蛋??? and also 炒茄子? I’m kind of embarrased to ask you that but I really miss thoses chinese dishes….

    Thanks for all 🙂

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Amalia, I have two eggplant recipe. One is fish fragrant eggplant (鱼香茄子), you can find it here => http://104.236.198.25/recipes/fish-fragrant-eggplant/. The other one is Di San Xian (地三鲜), you can find it here => http://104.236.198.25/recipes/di-san-xian-recipe/.
      I don’t have the tomato and egg recipe on my blog now, but I do have a post that I plan to publish soon. If you come back next Monday, you can find 西红柿炒鸡蛋 on my homepage 🙂
      Have you been living in China? It seems like you know a lot of classic local dishes 🙂
      Hope you have a great weekend!

  6. richa says:

    I am excited to try your dish! If I am making this as a side dish for 15 ppl (with 3 main dishes), Can you give me an idea on the amount of ingredients I would need to use instead? Also, how long can I make it in advance? I wont have time on the day of. Would it be bad to make it 2 days in advance and reheat it on the skillet when ready to be served?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Richa, I suggest you quadruple the recipe (each vegetable x 4 ). It will be a lot of cooking. You might want to consider the option of roasting the vegetables in the oven.
      Chop the potato and eggplant into larger pieces, like bite size, coat with plenty oil, season with a bit salt, and roast them with high temperature (450F or even 500F) in the oven, to brown the surface. Then you make the sauce separately, by cooking the green onion and garlic in the oil, and mix in all the seasonings, without the cornstarch. On the day of serving, you can heat up vegetables in the oven. Then heat up the sauce in a large dutch oven on stove top. Slowly add cornstarch slurry to thicken it. In the end, you transfer the vegetables into the dutch oven, to mix them together.
      Btw, if you are not using Asian long eggplant, you can sprinkle salt onto them before cooking, and let them rest for 30 minutes to draw moisture out. Then you remove the liquid with paper towel. It will keep the eggplant firm and generate a better texture.
      You might also want to make more sauce. The original recipe uses just enough sauce to coat the vegetables. I figure you can cook more, so it will be more appealing to the guests => 1/2 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce), 5 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine, 1/4 cup chicken stock, skip salt (since you need have added salt while baking), and a few more cloves garlic and more green onion.
      Of course if you prefer to follow the original recipe, you can do it on stove top by cooking in batches. You will need a very large pan for the last step, when you mix the vegetables with sauce.
      The dish will stay good for a day or two. The veggies won’t be crispy anymore, but should still be very flavorful.

      • richa says:

        Thank you so much for going above and beyond to give me the alternate recipe! I truly appreciate your help. When you say to roast it in the oven…for how long would you think it’ll take in the oven and shall I toss the veggies around half way through the process? Also, if I don’t have a dutch oven, can I use a nonstick pot to mix the veggies with the sauce?

      • Maggie says:

        Hi Richa, I think for eggplant and potato, you can try 450 F, roast for 10 minutes, take out once and stir, bake for another 10 minutes to 15 minutes, until the surface is charred and the veggies are cooked through. Bell pepper, depends on the size, the cooking time varies. But I won’t bake them for too long. They will become too tender. Maybe 10 minutes? A nonstick pot is no problem at all!
        I never cooked for so many people. That’s a lot of work! I hope the recipes works for you Richa, and hope you have a successful and delicious party 🙂

  7. Ian says:

    Had all the ingredients at home so di san xiang for dinner tonight! I really like your “soak+salt+dust” method with eggplant. One thing I also do is rinse the potato slices, then soak in water with a little rice vinegar while I cook the eggplant. I think there’s some chemistry involved in the neutralising of starch or something. Works well with the julienned potato for tudou si (and substitute chopped cilantro stems for the green pepper).
    Thanks for yet another recipe with that authentic flavor!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Ian, I’m glad to hear you like the recipe and thanks for sharing the trick of dealing with potatoes. I’ll definitely try hat out the next time 🙂

    • Enlightenment says:

      Ian, washing the potatoes to remove the starch reminds me of Spicy and sour shredded potatoes (TudouSi) for whichMaggie has posted a recipe . Do the potatoes still become crispy and brown?

  8. J-Mom says:

    5 stars
    I was a bit worried about mixing crisp potatoes into the veggies and sauce, wondering it might become mushy. It didn’t and it was great! Thank you for the recipe, as always.

  9. Danielle says:

    I’ve not cooked much with Asian eggplant, but have heard the outer is less tough than other eggplant. This recipe sounds delicious and so easy to make! I always cook my stir fry in batches because it comes out better that way. Sometimes it’s a hassle if I’m short on time, but it’s always worth it!

    • Maggie says:

      Ooops, sorry about that and thanks for pointing out the mistake!

  10. Sasha says:

    5 stars
    Dear Ms Omnivore Happy New Year!

    Thank you so much for your work!
    Although I can cook some of Chinese (am not Chinese) but i only do it in small portions for myself, mostly intuitively rather than following a particular recipe.
    I am a teacher of Chinese culture and philosophy. I teach in India at university. For the celebration of the CNY my Chinese colleague and myself were requested to make a Chinese menu and teach Indian Chefs to cook Chinese food (obligatory vegetarian!). I was very happy to find your page, as all dishes here look authentic and the recepies are very close to what my Chinese friends and colleagues would do at home. Our Indian chefs found them easy to follow and were able to cook for 200 people.
    From your cook book we cooked disanxian, dumpling dough and xihongshi chao jidan. Despite the large quantity everything turned out really good!
    Thanks again!
    Sasha

  11. Ellen Howard Attar says:

    5 stars
    This dish is fantastic! Thank you for sharing. I adore Asian food and can never manage to do a decent job of cooking it. Your instructions are clear and the results are amazing!

  12. Amy Dardis says:

    5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe numerous times; so many, in fact, that I don’t remember whether I commented on it or not!! This dish is FAAAABULOUS! I usually eat it as a main dish, as it’s SO filling. One thing I did differently is I used Crisco shortening instead of vegetable oil (it seems to make things even crispier) and added a couple teaspoons of sesame oil. Keep this in your bucket list of “must tries” and enjoy it again and again!!!!

  13. SB says:

    5 stars
    Hi, found your blog by chance. Tried this recipe today, I really enjoyed it, the sauce is very tasty. I also love how you understand that a lot of us are first time cooks and need precise measurements and actual numbers, thanks for that!

  14. Beth says:

    5 stars
    Last night, I made just the sauce and used it to replace the sauce in your ‘vegetarian chow mein’ recipe. This sauce was SO GOOD! I didn’t have dark soy sauce so just used the light soy sauce (Pearl River Brand) I had. I can only imagine just how time consuming everything you do is (cooking, food styling, photos, writing, etc…) so THANK YOU for sharing these recipes. I really appreciate it. The past two nights we’ve had two amazing dinners.

  15. Flower says:

    I just made this dish and now it is my absolute favorite way to eat eggplant! Thanks so much for helping me to finally cook it to where it’s crispy, yet still melt in your mouth.

  16. Sally Smoot says:

    5 stars
    I just made this and it was so good, just what I was looking for. Her recipes are always good.

  17. A says:

    5 stars
    This was delicious! I was looking for Chinese eggplant recipes and stumbled upon this one. I happened to have all the ingredients and decided on a whim to make it. Will absolutely make this again. I’m also going to reuse this eggplant stirfrying tip. I stirfry it regularly, but haven’t used the saltwater and cornstarch method before. It turned out wonderfully. Thanks for the recipe and the detailed instructions!

  18. Patricie Benešová says:

    Is it necessary to use so much oil? Is it possible to use less?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Patricie, you can definitely use less oil. The original dish in China use a lot of oil to flash fry the veggies before adding the sauce, to create a crispy texture. I’m already using less, but I think you can definitely reduce the oil to 3 tablespoons or so. You do need a bit more oil (2 TSB, or no less than 1 TSB), so it will crisp up. The potato might require 1 tablespoon to get crispy. And you can use 1 teaspoon for the pepper and another 1 teaspoon at the end for the sauce. You can reduce the oil further if you don’t mind the veggies less crispy. They should still taste delicious with the sauce.

  19. Liz says:

    5 stars
    I did the potato and eggplant in one batch in my air fryer with a liberal spritz of oil, then combined in a pan. Turned out great!

    • Maggie says:

      The air fryer method sounds like a great idea! Glad to hear you like the dish 🙂

  20. Carey says:

    5 stars
    Tastes amazing! Will make again

  21. Sweeney Teng says:

    5 stars
    This is one of my favorite dishes from China, I kept talking about missing the flavors to my parents, they didn’t understand what I was talking about. Finally got around to making it today, turns out they’ve never had it before. After all the times they’ve lived and visited there. This was a very common dish that they’ve never eaten before. I’ve been sharing your website to my FB posts too, whenever I’m posting about things I’ve cooked, I tag it there when I’m using your recipes. Easy to follow, with common ingredients, and it really tastes like local restaurant fare. Thank you for your hard work.

  22. Dave says:

    5 stars
    Made this tonight for dinner and it came out great. I used a poblano chili from the garden instead of a bell pepper and it was yummy.

  23. Vidha Jain says:

    This was a fantastic recipe, thank you!!

  24. CO Lee says:

    5 stars
    I was really surprised by this recipe: it looks so ordinary. Basic Chinese brown sauce, ordinary veggies. Seemed like it would be good but nothing special.
    We made it last night and it was amazingly delicious! Definitely gonna be in the rotation. And easy easy…

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