spicy sichuan aubergine
The secret to this dish is that the aubergine is twice-cooked. It’s first deep-fried which makes the flesh seductively soft and creamy, then added back to the pan with the other ingredients to absorb all the fiery flavours of the spicy sauce. As it does retain a lot of oil when cooked this manner, you may wish to take the healthier route of stir-frying, but be warned – it won’t taste anywhere near as good! I have added some minced pork for a variation in texture, but you honestly wouldn’t miss it if you were to make it vegetarian.
Spicy Szechuan Aubergine
serves 2 (or 4-6, with other dishes)
1 large aubergine (or 4 Asian eggplants), cut into batons
90g (1/5 lb) minced pork
vegetable or groundnut oil (for deep-frying)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp shiaoxing wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vegetable oil
pinch white pepper
2 tbsp chilli bean sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 spring onion, finely sliced
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
Mix the minced pork with the marinade and leave for 30 minutes.
Place the aubergine batons in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Leave for 30 minutes over to sink to let the bitter juices run out. Pat dry with kitchen towels.
Fill a wok or deep pan with enough oil (about 2 inch deep) and turn the heat to high. Deep fry the aubergine batons in batches and drain on kitchen towels.
Discard all but 1 tbsp of the oil (or reserve for future use) and reheat the wok over a high heat until smoking. Add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chilli and stir-fry quickly for a few seconds. Add the minced pork and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon if clumps form. Once the meat is no longer pink, add the chilli bean paste and aubergines, stirring to combine.
Pour in the water, soy sauce, vinegar and add the brown sugar, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp water and stir it through the aubergines, cooking until the sauce has thickened.
Serve the aubergine in a large bowl at the table, family style, with plenty of steamed rice.