23 July 2009
My pen pal June just put a recipe on her blog.
Rather than plagiarize, I’m simply going to put a link to that recipe
at the end of this entry. I highly recommend this dish! Even if you
think you don’t like eggplant (aubergine), try this anyway!
put it this way. When I first met David, he didn’t like "any"
vegetables. Over time, he came to like certain things but eggplant
(aubergine) was certainly never at the top of our list. But that
changed when we moved to China. One day David confessed to me, "Ten
years ago, if you had told me that eggplant would be one of my favorite
foods, I’d have thought you were crazy!" Contrary to all our
expectations, this dish has definitely become one of our family
favorites (except that it’s too spicy for small children). This
particular recipe Yunnan Province in Southwestern China, but I’ve had
varieties of it all over Southern China.
Aubergine is a veggie
that soaks up flavors of the food around it. In this case, the
eggplant soaks up the flavors of garlic, ginger, pepper, and soy. In
Guangdong Province, it often has a bit of salted fish cooked in with it
and is slightly less spicy than the dish as served further West. No
matter what the variation, this is a delightfully spicy, flavorful dish
that definitely stands on its own two feet, but the texture is soft
with just a bit of firmness for a very satisfying texture on the
palate. In my opinion, it must definitely be served with rice. If you
were using a Chinese style serving method, you would take a bit of this
food from the serving dish, place it on top of your rice, and then eat
it from there. The juices from the dish then go down into your rice
and flavor that too. The blandness of the rice is a perfect contrast
to the spiciness of the eggplant.
Unlike some authentic
Chinese dishes, you can readily find the ingredients in an American
food market: young fresh aubergine, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, hot
red peppers, scallions (green onions), soy sauce and (hopefully) a bit
of sesame oil. Use young, non-bitter eggplants. In my opinion, the
long slender, bright purple eggplants are far superior to the big, fat,
black ones I usually find in American produce markets. If you can only
find the round variety, purchase the smallest ones you can find in the
hope that they won’t yet be bitter.
And now (drum roll) … click here for the link to: Eggplant Cooked In Red Sauce
Editor’s note: As interest in Yunnan cuisine increases around China and the rest of the world, GoKunming contributor Guo Duomi will occasionally offer recipes for traditional Yunnan and Chinese dishes. If there is a certain dish you would like to see a recipe for, please send us your ideas via our contact form.
Eggplant cooked in red sauce – Hongshao qiezi (红烧茄子)
Eggplant or aubergine is a staple in not only Yunnan cuisine but Chinese cuisine around the country. Similarly, soy sauce-based hongshao dishes are available all over China.
Two types of eggplant can be found at produce markets around China. The first is the plump, dark purple vegetable well known in the West, the second is a longer, thinner version with striking bright purple skin. The bright purple variant is more prevalent but it may be substituted with the other as taste does not differ between the two.
2 medium eggplants
5 sprigs of spring onion
2 small green Chinese capsicums*
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
Oil for frying
* Using zhoupi lajiao (皱皮辣椒) – a slightly spicy wrinkly-skinned variety of capsicum – is recommended for this dish. If zhoupi lajiao is unavailable, you can substitute with a standard green or red capsicum.
Slice off the top and then slice the eggplants into strips around 3 centimetres long. Wash and chop up the spring onion into two centimetre lengths and chop the capsicum into small pieces. Wash the ginger thoroughly and slice thinly, leaving the skin on. Peel the garlic and slice it thinly.
Heat 3 – 4 tablespoons of oil in a wok on high heat and add the eggplant. Stir thoroughly until the eggplant has taken up all of the oil, then fry for around five minutes, shifting the eggplant around occasionally but giving it time to cook without being disturbed.
Ultimately you want your eggplant to be browned on the outside and reasonably mushy, you will find it gives back a lot of the oil to the pan when ready.
Once cooked remove the eggplant to a plate, leaving the oil in the wok.
Lower the heat slightly and add the spring onion, capsicum, garlic and ginger to the wok. Stir fry them together for around a minute and then return the eggplant to the wok.
Add in the salt, pepper and soy sauce and stir to mix thoroughly. Transfer to a plate and serve.