People tend to stereotype Szechuan cuisine as being simply ‘hot and spicy’ – this is not true. What really distinguishes Szechuan cookery is its mastery of the art of flavors. This dish highlights the gorgeous layering of flavors that is the signature of Szechuan cooking. Pickled chillies with fermented bean paste give the dish its warmth and luster; the garlic-ginger-spring onion trinity adds a luxurious kick of flavor and a hint of sweet and sour serves to harmonize all the other tastes. Do not be fooled by the name – there is no fish involved in the recipe at all. So it is also a perfect dish for vegetarians.
- 2 Asian long eggplants (about 500-600gram) 紫皮长茄子
- 2-3 cups cooking oil for deep-drying
- 2 pickled red pepper四川泡椒, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan fermented bean paste (Doubanjiang) 郫县豆瓣酱
- 1 tablespoon garlic cloves, minced蒜末
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced姜末
- 2 tablespoons spring onion, white part and green part minced and separate葱末
- 1/3 teaspoon or none salt
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce生抽
- 1/2 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar镇江香醋
- 2 teaspoons corn flour生粉
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar白糖
- 150ml stock or water
- Roll cut (滚刀切) eggplants into long strips (try to keep some skin on each one). Place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle them with salt and mix well and leave in the bowl for about 30 minutes. You will get about ½ cup of water coming out of the eggplant. Drain before moving the next step.
- Prepare a separate bowl; mix all the ingredients for the seasoning sauce. Set aside.
- In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 350°F (180˚C). Carefully add the eggplant in batches and deep-fry for three to four minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Pour the deep-frying oil into a bowl. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the oil to the same wok. Turn to a low-medium heat. When the wok is hot again, minced ginger, garlic and spring onions (white part) until fragrant, then add the pickled pepper and Szechuan fermented bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red. Return the deep-dried eggplants, mix well and fry for a minute. Gently pour into the seasoning sauce. Let them simmer in the wok for a minute or so to absorb the flavors of the sauce. Stir a few times to make sure the eggplants are well coated.
- Move from wok, sprinkle chopped green onion.
Since both doubanjiang (fermented bean paste) and soy sauce contain salt. So you may just need a little bit or none of the salt at all in this recipe.