Chinese Soul Food
This dish can go in any number of directions depending on the ingredients. Normally, I brown a little bit of ground pork to flavor the eggplant. I’ve also used good bacon or some diced Chinese sausage. Often, I’ll make it without any meat at all. I like using the long, thin Chinese eggplant, but this recipe works just fine with the standard eggplant you find in your grocery store. Adjust the amount of chili sauce and garlic according to how pungent you like it. Sometimes, I’ll add a splash of rice vinegar to get some hot-and-sour action. At the restaurant, we used to flash-fry the eggplant, which isn’t practical for a home kitchen. I find that roasting the eggplant in the oven minimizes the amount of oil you have to use. Alternatively, you can steam the eggplant for about fifteen minutes.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
© 2023 Hsiao-Ching Chou / Sasquatch Books · Reproduced with permission. · Chinese Soul Food by Hsiao-Ching Chou, published by Sasquatch (£21.99)
You Will Need
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the stem and tail ends off the eggplants. The skin on Chinese eggplants is usually thin, so you don’t have to peel them. Cut the eggplant into segments about 3 inches long and about ½ inch thick. Spread the pieces on a baking sheet and roast for 7 to 10 minutes, or until soft.
Meanwhile, preheat the wok over high heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the pork and, using a spatula, break it up and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until brown and nearly cooked through. It’s okay if the pork gets slightly crispy edges. Remove the wok from the heat, transfer the pork to a small bowl, and set aside. There will be some residual grease and charred bits left in the wok. Rinse the wok and dry with a towel.
When the eggplant is done roasting, you are ready to stir-fry. Return the wok to the stove over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, the garlic, onions, and ginger. Quickly stir the aromatics for about 10 seconds. Add the pork, soy sauce, water, chili sauce, vinegar, and sugar, and stir for a few seconds to combine. Add the eggplant, and toss it in the sauce. Continue to stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until the eggplant has absorbed the sauce. Drizzle with sesame oil, toss one last time, and remove the wok from the heat. Sprinkle the cilantro over the top and serve with steamed rice.