Monday, December 28, 2009

Fish-fragrant aubergines (yu xiang qie zi)

Forgive the sloppy plating, as we were eager to eat while the dish was still steaming. Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichuanese cookbook, Land of Plenty, came in the mail today so I'm continuing my Chinese food bender. Memories of this dish from her first visit to China were largely what induced Dunlop to return to Sichuan province to live. No actual fish is involved — the dish is so named because it uses the sweet and sour flavorings of traditional Sichuanese fish cookery.

Dunlop suggests Lee Kum Kee brand chilli bean sauce, while I used the wonderfully fragrant Ming Teh broad bean paste with chilli.

1. Cut four Asian eggplants in half lengthwise and then in thirds crosswise. Mince four garlic cloves and 1 T. ginger. Slice the green parts of 4 green onions into thin rings.

2. Heat peanut oil in a wok for deep frying until just beginning to smoke. Add the eggplant in batches and deep fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly golden on the outside. Drain on paper towels.

3. Pour off the oil, wipe the wok with a paper towel, and return it to a high flame. When it starts to smoke, pour in 2 T. peanut oil and 1 1/2 T. Sichuanese chilli bean paste. Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Add 1/2 c. chicken stock, 1 1/2 T. sugar and 1 tsp. light soy sauce.

4. Lower the flame, add the fried eggplants and let them simmer gently a few minutes to absorb the flavors. Dissolve 1 tsp. cornstarch in 1 T. water, sprinkle this over the eggplants and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Stir in the green onions and leave a few seconds until the onions have lost their rawness. Turn off the heat, stir in 1 tsp. sesame oil and serve.

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