Yesterday afternoon I could be found in my cube, listening to back episodes of Spilled Milk – specifically the eggplant episode, silently shaking with laughter to the point of tears about heirloom eggplant names.
On a related note, I’ve decided to name my next cat “Little Spooky.”
The recipe that followed, Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fish Fragrant Eggplant sounded so delicious I had to make it immediately. Like seriously, I left work early to buy eggplants.
A couple of substitutions (per usual) for weeknight convenience of not having to run out of my way to the Asian market: although I had Chinese black vinegar on hand, I didn’t have the Sichuan chili paste (Google said sambal oelek was comparable so I used that – but since it is straight chili and lacks the fermented beans there was definitely an umamious element missing), and also I used corn starch instead of potato starch which is a more acceptable swap.
This turned out completely silky spicy delicious, I don’t even know if I should make it with the right chili paste because it might blow my mind.
Fish Fragrant Eggplant
Found in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking
1 1/4 lbs eggplant (about 2 large or 3 medium eggplants)
oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 tbsp Sichuan chili bean paste (sambal oelek in a pinch, but I will absolutely get the right stuff next time)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp grated garlic
2/3 cup chicken stock
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp potato flour (or corn starch) mixed with one tbsp cold water
2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
4 tbsp finely sliced spring onions (green part)
Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 3 thick slices, then into evenly sized batons. Toss them with a good sprinkle of salt and leave in a colander for 30 minutes to drain.
Heat oil in a wok, and fry the eggplant in batches (3-4 minutes until golden). Remove to a paper towel.
Pour off the oil from the wok and add back 3 tbsp. Heat on medium and add the chili paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes (do not burn).
Add stock and sugar and mix. Add the fried eggplant and let simmer gently for a few minutes. Stir starch mixtures, then pour over eggplant and stir gently to thicken the sauce. Season with salt if necessary, but it’s probably salty enough already. Add vinegar and spring onions, stir in and serve with rice.
No fish were harmed in the creation of this fish fragrant dish.