This is one of the most popular recipes of all time on my blog. Normally, a restaurant chef would deep-fry the eggplant and then cook it with the sauce in a large wok over extremely high heat to keep it glossy and crispy. To avoid all that hassle, I’m sharing my favorite method for preparing eggplant without deep-frying while still making it crispy. The eggplant is then finished in a savory, sticky sauce—just enough to coat the eggplant so that it won’t turn soggy.
YIELD 2 to 4 servings | PREP 25 minutes | COOK 15 minutes
2 small Chinese eggplants (11 ounces, or 300 g, total), stems removed and cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, divided
3 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil), divided
1 teaspoon minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Sliced scallions, for garnishing
Place the eggplant pieces in a large bowl and add water to cover. Add the salt and mix well. Set a pot lid on top of the eggplant to keep it under water. Let soak for 15 minutes. Strain and pat dry.
In a small bowl, combine the light and dark soy sauces, 1 tablespoon of water, the sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch for the sauce. Stir until the cornstarch is dissolved.
Sprinkle the eggplant with the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch and mix by hand until the eggplant is evenly coated with a thin layer.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Spread the eggplant pieces in the skillet without overlapping. Fry the eggplant for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until all the surfaces are golden brown and the insides turn soft. If the skillet gets too hot and starts to smoke, reduce the heat to medium. Transfer to a large plate.
Add the remaining 1⁄2 tablespoon oil, the ginger, and the garlic to the same skillet over medium heat, stirring a few times until fragrant. Add the eggplant back into the skillet. Stir the sauce again to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved, then pour it over the eggplant. The sauce reduces quickly, so immediately stir a few times until the eggplant is evenly coated and the sauce thickens.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a large serving plate, top with the scallions, and serve hot.
NOTE: You can use regular eggplant and still get a crispy texture; however, Chinese eggplant is the best option.
Credit: Chinese Homestyle: Everyday Plant-Based Recipes for Takeout, Dim Sum, Noodles, and More by Maggie Zhu, Quarto, 2022 Photo by Maggie Zhu
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