Eggplant and Red Sweet Peppers in Roasted Chili Paste

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1 1/4 pounds eggplants*
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
1 purple onion, cut lengthwise into thin strips
2 tablespoons roasted chili paste
1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 red sweet pepper, cut into long, thin strips

Trim off the stems from the eggplants. If using Japanese eggplants, cut each one in half lengthwise and then cut each half crosswise into 1-inch pieces. If using Thai eggplants, quarter lengthwise. If using one or more globe eggplants, cut into 1-inch chunks.

Heat a wok or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook, tossing often, until the onion is shiny and softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggplant pieces and cook, tossing often, until they are tender but still hold their shape, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chili paste, sugar, water, soy sauce, and salt and toss well. Add the red pepper and cook, tossing often, until it is shiny and beginning to wilt, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot or warm.

*The slender, deep purple Japanese eggplants are ideal here, but chunks cut from a large globe eggplant, or golf ball-sized Thai eggplants halved lengthwise would work as well.

Serves 4 to 6.

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