Saturday, September 6, 2008

Spicy Eggplant

Here's a decent slap together eggplant dish. It's based on a recipe my sister-in-law likes to make, though I've made a few strategic alterations. For example, she like to cook the eggplant with dried chili peppers and spices like anise. I prefer fresh pepper to the dried, and I can do without the anise, so I leave it out. She also prefers to cut the eggplant into large flat pieces, whereas I think cubing it makes things easier and cuts down the cooking time.

Of course I'm keeping things pretty simple here. It could be fun to experiment by adding cilantro or other fragrant herbs, or some other meatier vegetables like mushrooms, squash or zucchini. Try it out.

Ingredients:
  • Three long Asian eggplants
  • one large juicy tomato or two small tomatoes
  • 2 long green peppers (Found in Asian markets. Are these wax peppers? Experience shows that the heat in these things can vary substantially, so watch out)
  • one medium onion
  • sichuan pepper corns
  • small hunk of ginger, about the size of the first knuckle on your ring finger.
  • two to three cloves of garlic
  • Scallions. There should be enough to give you two hand fulls after you dice them up.
  • Shanxi mature vinegar (chencu) or white vinegar or cider vinegar
  • Lao Chou--dark soy sauce
  • optional mushroom essence (granules)
  • salt
  • cooking oil
  • wok

Precook:

  1. Cut up the eggplant into small pieces. I prefer to cut them into small cubes, but you can also cut them into thinnish half-dollar sized rounds and then slice the rounds into halves or quarters. Throw the cut eggplant into water, and let it soak while you prepare everything else.
  2. Dice the onion
  3. Dice the scallions
  4. Wash and slice open the hot peppers. Take out the seeds and remove the stems. Slice each individual pepper in half, flatten it out onto the cutting board, and then cut them diagonally into thin small rings or thin ribbons.
  5. Dice the tomato, and set it aside in a bowl along with the seeds and the juices that gushed out when you cut it open.
  6. Mince the garlic and ginger separately. Keep them separated.
  7. Throw the soaking eggplant into a colander and let it drain out for a few minutes.
  8. Carefully rinse the sichuan peppers under cool water.

Cook it up:

Throw two tablespoons (or even more if you can take it) of oil into the wok and turn the heat all the way up.

Put the ginger, green peppers, and sichuan peppercorns in first. Let them sit for a couple of seconds and then stir them up for another 20 seconds or so.

The onion goes in next. Stir the onion in with the hot peppers for about 40 seconds before piling the eggplant on. Put all the eggplant in, make sure you mix it in well, and take a breather. Eggplant can take a while to get going, but you'll need to keep an eye on it. If you let it sit for too long without stirring, it will burn. You want to keep everything moving inside the wok. What you're looking for is for the eggplant to begin to look wet or wilted, as if it has finally begun to absorb the cooking oil. If your eggplants have purple skin, they may begin to turn green.

Now it is time to toss in your cut tomato and your garlic. Mix it in well again, and keep stirring as you wait for the tomato to cook down.

You'll know when the eggplant is just about done. The tomato and eggplant chunks will be completely cooked down and there will be a sizable amount on broth down at the bottom of the wok. As you reach this point--it will be a few minutes after adding the tomatoes--throw in a half teaspoon of the mushroom essence if you have it, a teaspoon of salt (or more to taste), a small splash of soy sauce for color (Keep it small. This isn't Kikkoman; a little goes a very long way), and a splash of vinegar--say, twice as much vinegar as soy sauce. Just before you are ready to take the eggplant out of the wok, throw in half your scallions, fold the mixture a couple times and then empty it out onto deep serving dish. Throw another handful of scallions on top for garnish.

Serve with quality white rice.

This dish goes well together with stir fried dark greens and cheap red table wine.

3 comments:

HoBs said...

No finish with Sesame Oil?

Sounds nice. Yeah, haven't made that in a long time. I used to have the problem of this dish of the eggplant being either too hard (I didn't presoak them), or you could get them cooked nice if you use a ton of oil (i think that's what most chinese restaurants do).

But then i discovered blanching them briefly in boiling water and then tossing in wok does the trick and obviates the need for so much oil. but if just soaking works that would be even easier.

I also agree, I prefer the cubes.

i like your choice of accompaniements.

Jonny America said...

Yeah, we've been out of sesame oil for a while, so I never think to use it. I'll have to give it a try next time.

Sometimes eggplant just needs time to get going. I find that it the first couple of eggplant I throw in absorb all the oil and then the remaining ones just sit on the top. If you let them sit for a while, taking care not to let them burn, they'll throw the oil back out as they cook and it all turns out all right.

I'll have to try blanching next time. The soaking can be kind of a pain.

Sophie said...

ooo... i am an eggplant super fan! sigh. i want the spicy eggplant sooooo badly right now. with rice.

Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.
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