Szechuan Stir-fried Eggplant

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1 to 1 1/4 pound eggplant, regular or asian
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions plus additional for garnish, green and white parts
1 tablespoon minced peeled gingerroot
1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 clove)
1 to 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon garlic black bean paste
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water for sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water

1. Wash the eggplant and trim off the stem. Leave the skin on if eggplant is very fresh and the skin tender. Otherwise peel. Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and cut each quarter into 1-inch long pieces. If the eggplant is large, cut it into eighths first; the pieces should be bite size. Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, toss, and let stand for 20 minutes. *** Very important! Rinse, drain, and pat dry. Set aside.

2. In a small dish, mix together the 3 tablespoons of scallions, gingerroot, garlic, and red pepper. Set aside. In another dish, combine the hot bean sauce, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Set aside.

3. Pour the oil in a wok and place over high heat. Heat the oil to hot but not smoking. Test by dipping a piece of eggplant into the oil; it should sizzle. Stir the eggplant into the hot oil. The eggplant will initially absorb all the oil but will release it as it cooks. Do not add more oil. Cook, stirring and pressing the eggplant against the bottom of the pan with the back of the spatula, for about 6 minutes, or until it is soft and turns dark. Add the scallion mixture and stir for 1 minute.

4. Add the bean sauce mixture and water and stir to mix. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender. Remove the cover and thicken the sauce with the cornstarch slurry. Transfer to a shallow platter and sprinkle with thinly sliced scallions. Serve hot with rice.

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