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.
- 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
- 1 teaspoon crushes Szechuan peppercorns
- 1/4 cup soy 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Drain the eggplant and pat dry with a towel. Then toss with corn starch until each piece is thoroughly coated.
- 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.
- 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.
- Garnish with green onions and serve over rice.