Eggplant with garlic sauce (Yuxiang eggplant, 鱼香茄子) is a relatively easy and extremely delicious home-cooked dish.
However, it is very tricky to cook eggplant. Many people struggle to perfect it because of eggplant absorbs oil quickly and become soggy, at the same time it lost its appetizing purple hue after cooking.
This article will show you how to cook eggplant that is less oily, and how to retain its bright color.
A delightful treat not to be missed
You will be rewarded with the tender and silky treat of eggplants, with attractive bright purple color, firm on the surface and spongy inside, glaze with the spicy meat sauce with the intense savory flavor. The combination of savory seasonings and eggplant delivers a delicate balance of flavor and texture.
Eggplant with garlic sauce is one Chinese dish that does not need the roaring heat found in restaurant kitchens. It is an aesthetically pleasing combination of the purplish hue of eggplants, bright red of the chili and refreshing green of the scallion. The mere mention of this Sichuan food would conjure up a mental picture of spiciness, savory and numbness.
Try it out and you will not be disappointed.
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Simple ingredients with intense savory flavor
You can use any eggplants for this dish, but Japanese and Chinese eggplant is best for stir-frying. The skin is thin, does not contain mush seeds, with creamy flesh and virtually no bitter taste.
Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce is prepared with some essential ingredients- garlic, scallion, ginger, chili, vinegar, Shaoxing wine and oyster sauce. The seasoning ingredients matched perfectly with the relatively plain flavor of eggplant.
The best result is by using minced pork with a quarter of fat, but you can use chicken meat as the substitution. Some recipe includes salted fish in the recipe, but it is an acquired taste so I would leave it out in this recipe.
There are two optional ingredient required – pickle chili and Sichuan peppercorn if you want to make it authentic. The taste will significantly change once you include either one of it in the recipe. For now, we just substitute the pickled chili with some dry red chili.
Doubanjiang (also called broad bean paste) is widely used in Sichuan cuisine. There is a version that is spicy which is labelled as spicy broad bean paste. You can use either the spicy of regular version depending on whether you prefer it to be spicier. I would suggest getting this sauce for the authenticity, although soybean paste is a close alternative if you are unable to get it.
Two tricks to cook eggplant: how to make it less oily, and how to retain its bright color.
Trick # 1: How to make the eggplant absorbs less oil
You need to know the structure of eggplant to understand why eggplant absorbs oil much more than other vegetables.
Eggplant has a cellular structure which is soft, spongy and loaded with small air pockets. These air pockets are porous and quick to soak the oil during cooking. Therefore, the goal is to break the air pockets before cooking, hence reduce the amount of oil absorbed into the eggplant.
Naturally, the best way to solve the problem is to break down the air pockets before cooking.
Here is a useful method to do it. It is called salting. Some books call it sweating or purging. They all relate to the same process.
- Cut the eggplant into the size and the shape that you want.
- Add a tablespoon of salt to a pot of water.
- Place the eggplant in it, and, set aside for half an hour.
- Rinse away the salt, pat dry.
Why is this method works? Because salt draws out water from the cells of the eggplant due to osmosis. As a result, the air pockets collapse and fill with water. Since the air pockets are now full of water, there is no room for the oil from soaking into the eggplant anymore.
Trick # 2: How to keep the eggplant from turning brown
Another challenge is to keep the purple hue of the skin and prevent the flesh from turning brown.
While this will not affect the flavor, this step is unquestionably making the eggplant more appealing.
Here is what you can do:
- Keep the eggplant pieces in water immediately after cutting. This step will help to prevent browning of the flesh.
- Deep-fried the eggplants in oil for 1-2 minutes before proceeding to stir-frying will retain the bright purplish color.
The four-step process of preparing eggplant with garlic sauce
Below is my four-step process to prepare this eggplant with garlic sauce.
Before I proceed, let me mentioned that the word eggplant, aubergine, and brinjal are referring to the same fruit.
Step one: Prepping the eggplant
This step is the most important one because eggplant needs special attention to get the best out of it.
I want to ensure my eggplant to be less oily. At the same time, I want it firm enough to withstand stir-frying in the wok.
Here are the steps:
- Remove the stems, cut it into julienne of 6 cm length.
- Mix it with a tablespoon of salt in some water. Place the eggplant pieces in it and soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Rinse the eggplant to wash away the excess salt.
- Drain on a colander to remove the excess water.
- Place the eggplants on a kitchen towel and pad dry.
Step two: Prepping the meat sauce
Yuxiang 鱼香 is the seasoning mixture of Chinese cooking widely used for cooking eggplants. It is originated from the Sichuan province but has long been spread to other regions in China and Asia. The term Yuxiang means “the fragrance of fish,” although the seasoning ingredients neither contain any fish or seafood.
Despite the obscure origin of the Chinese name of this dish, the sauce is a perfect match with eggplant due to its intense savory flavor.
Here are the steps to prepare meat sauce:
- Minced the pork. It should consist of three-quarter of lean meat and one-quarter of fat. You can use chicken breast meat if you do not eat pork, but the texture will not be as smooth as pork.
- Heat up some vegetable oil in the wok. Saute the chopped garlic, ginger, scallion and dry chili over low heat. Continue to saute until it becomes aromatic.
- Add the minced meat. Loosen the pork with the wok spatula. Stir-fry until it is cooked. (Once the meat is cooked you can stir-fry over high heat for half a minute to get the aroma of stir frying or wok-hei.)
- Add the remaining seasoning and keep stir-frying.
- Add the cornflour slurry to thicken the sauce.
- Finally, add the Shaoxing wine and vinegar.
Step three- Oil blanching the eggplant
Oil blanching means to deep frying the food briefly, then follow by stir-frying together with other ingredients to complete the cooking process.
As I mentioned earlier, oil blanching the eggplant is the secret to retain its bright purplish color. I suggest you purchase a deep fryer if you do not have one, or if you do deep frying occasionally, then get a deep-frying basket which is cheaper.
Here are the steps.
- Heat up the oil to 350°F/175°C.
- Place the eggplant pieces in the deep-frying basket and plunge into the oil. The oil may splatter a bit initially as the eggplant contains plenty of water. Be careful.
- Deep fried for two minutes until golden brown.
- Remove it from the basket, drain on the paper towel.
Step four – Stir-frying and garnishing.
Not every Chinese recipe call for stir-frying over high heat. Eggplant with garlic sauce is one of such recipe.
Here are the steps.
- Add the eggplant to the meat sauce in the wok.
- Stir-fry over medium heat until the eggplant become tender.
- Add the vinegar to the eggplant, mix well. Vinegar will lose its acidity when heated up, so it is best to add in the final step.
- Dish up and garnish with chopped scallion.
So I have just shown you how to retain the bright color of eggplant, and how to make it less oily. Eggplant with garlic sauce is one dish that should not miss, easy to cook and the Chinese dish that will appeal to everyone
Watch the video and get the recipe below. Now it is your turn to try it yourself.
The Eggplant with Garlic Sauce Recipe
- 500 g eggplants
- 150 g pork , (minced) 1/4 fat & 4/3 lean
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 dry red chili , cut to half
- 2 tablespoons scallion ,chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic ,chopped
- 2 tablespoons ginger ,chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
- 2 tablespoons chili bean paste , or soybean paste for less spicy
- 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn (optional)
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon black vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine , or red wine
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch slurry , make up with 1 tsp cornstarch & 2 tsp water
- red chili , chopped
- scallion , chopped
- Remove the stems of the eggplant and cut into julienne of 4 cm length. Mix it with a tablespoon of salt and leave it for an hour. Wash away the salt thoroughly and squeeze the eggplants to remove excessive water.
- Heat up 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the wok. Saute the remaining seasoning (A) until fragrant. Add the minced meat and stir-fry until it is cooked.
- Deep fry the eggplants for 2 minutes. Keep aside.
- Add the seasonings (B), eggplants, and stir-fry until the eggplants are soft.
- Add the sesame oil and cornflour slurry. Stir fry until it thickens.
- Sprinkle with spring onion and serve.
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- Rice Cooking Wine (Red) - 750ml (Pack of 1) by Shaohsing
- Gold Plum Chinkiang Vinegar 18.6 fl oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1336 Total Fat: 60g Saturated Fat: 16g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 33g Cholesterol: 174mg Sodium: 2359mg Carbohydrates: 133g Fiber: 16g Sugar: 65g Protein: 70g