Szechuan Eggplant with Silken Tofu

Eggplant is one of my latest cooking obsessions. I’ve been trying to eat less meat in 2020, and as a result I’ve been exploring more veggies to change things up for my weeknight meals. Prior to this recipe, I’d only ever used globe eggplant (aka American eggplant), and I didn’t realize how many different varieties there were! I love the thin shape of the Chinese eggplant I use in this recipe because it’s so convenient for slicing up and stir-frying in big chunks.

There are a few extra steps to this recipe that make all the difference. First, it’s essential to soak the eggplant in a large bowl of water with 2 teaspoons salt, because this prevents the eggplant from soaking up too much oil when you’re pan-frying (trust me, you don’t want this). Second, be patient when frying and let each piece get crispy and golden – this will also ensure that it’s soft and thoroughly cooked through on the inside. I love the addition of tofu in this recipe because it makes it feel like a proper meal instead of just a side dish, plus it adds in a little extra protein. 

Bonus: this recipe is vegan and gluten-free, as long as you use gluten-free soya sauce.

INGREDIENTS

Eggplant

  • 3 Chinese eggplants (about 10 inches long each)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2–4 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, finely minced

Szechuan Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon crushes Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup soya sauce
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • 1 package silken tofu
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut eggplant into bite-sized slices. Place in a big bowl covered with water and stir in 2 teaspoons salt. Cover with a plate (ensuring that eggplant is thoroughly submerged) and let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your Szechuan sauce. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the Szechuan peppercorns for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Crush and combine with soya sauce, garlic chili paste, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar and Chinese five spice, mixing thoroughly. 
  3. Drain the eggplant and pat dry with a towel. Then toss with corn starch until each piece is thoroughly coated.
  4. Working in 2 batches, heat 1 tablespoon oil in an extra large, flat-bottomed skillet. Spread eggplant out in pan and let each side of the eggplant get crispy and golden. Repeat with second batch of eggplant, and then set aside. 
  5. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to the skillet, and over medium heat, add the garlic and ginger, stirring for a couple minutes or until fragrant. Add the Szechuan sauce, eggplant and tofu into the pan and toss gently until all ingredients thoroughly combined.
  6. Garnish with green onions and serve over rice.

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