Sweet, savory, sticky, spicy - it's everything we love about Chinese food in a vegetarian eggplant dish. It's a rock-star side dish or filling main meal served over steamed white rice and topped with cilantro and fresh chilis.
Asian flavors are one of my favorite ways to stretch my pescatarian tendencies these days. We've already made Asian fish with ginger and soy, savory Korean vegetable pancake with shrimp and Chinese tofu (that tastes like pork!) here on Weekday Pescatarian.
For today's recipe, we tackle a simple but completely crave able side dish for those main dishes - Charred Chinese Eggplant in Oyster Sauce. This dish is similar to a common Szechuan recipe I've eaten in Chinese restaurants around the world. I've balanced out the spice so this is friendly to just about every palette - even your pickiest eater.
Add it to your meal plan this week, eggplant lovers, and get ready to swoon.
What you'll need to make Charred Chinese Eggplant in Oyster Sauce:
- garlic cloves
- red chili
- neutral oil
- oyster sauce
- water or stock
- light soy sauce
- sesame oil
- white pepper
- cilantro leaves
(exact measurements and full instructions included in the recipe card below)
Step by step instructions for this Chinese eggplant with oyster sauce:
To begin, make the sauce for the Chinese eggplant recipe. In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, white pepper and 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch. Stir to mix well, until there are no more lumps in the sauce mix. It will be quite a thick sauce. Set aside.
Next, wash and pat dry your eggplant, then slice. I like serving this dish with sticks of eggplant, so I sliced regular eggplant into steaks lengthwise, and then into sticks. If using long, thin, Japanese eggplant, you could likely slice the eggplant in half lengthwise and then into sticks.
Next, transfer the eggplant pieces to a separate bowl and toss them with the remaining cornstarch.
Heat a large wok or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of neutral oil to the pan. When it's shimmering, add the cornstarch coated eggplant sticks in a single layer (you will likely need to cook the eggplant in two batches). Leave the eggplant undisturbed in the pan for 2-3 minutes, ensuring you get charring on the vegetables before turning and cooking another 2-3 minutes until both sides are deeply golden brown.
Finish browning both batches of eggplant, (adding a little bit more oil to the pan, as needed, between batches) then move the cooked vegetables to a dish and set aside. Lower the burner to medium heat and let the hot wok or pan cool for a minute before adding the last tablespoon of oil and the minced garlic. Cook for one minute, then add fresh sliced red chilis to the pan.
Stir fry for another minute, then pour the sauce into the pan, stirring quickly as it heats. Add the eggplant and 3 tablespoons of stock or water to the pan. Toss quickly to incorporate the liquid and coat the vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Top the eggplant stir fry with fresh cilantro or green onions, additional sliced chili peppers, and serve as a side or over steamed rice as a main course.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions for this Chinese Eggplant Dish:
I've made the dish with Japanese eggplant, Chinese eggplant and regular globe eggplant. All of them worked beautifully. Asian eggplants tend to have thinner skin with little trace of bitterness. If you can find them in your local grocery stores or your Asian market, use them! Globe eggplants are easier to find, and also a great option. The skin is thicker, but I like the texture of it in this dish where the rest of the eggplant turns soft and silky.
I really don't find it necessary. The charring of the eggplant pieces and the super flavorful garlic sauce leave no trace of the bitterness we fear in eggplant, so I don't bother with the salting and the draining and the rinsing and the paper towels. But if you're determined to do it, follow your heart.
The eggplant flesh turns really silky in the charring and saucing of this dish, so the skin does its job of holding the structure of the piece together. I think it only adds to the dish.
How about Asian recipes like Fish with Ginger and Soy, savory Korean vegetable pancake with shrimp or Chinese tofu (that tastes like pork!)? The Chinese garlic sauce you toss the eggplant in is also the perfect companion to a simple bowl of steamed rice.
Eggplant and oyster sauce are our main ingredients in this recipe. Oyster sauce is a thick, savory sauce made from oyster extract and spices, usually thickened with cornstarch. If you need another option, dark soy sauce sauce (start with just a teaspoon and taste and adjust seasoning) or hoisin sauce could do the trick. If using hoisin, omit the added sugar from the sauce until you taste it first, then add more sweetness if needed.
Try these Weekday Pescatarian favorites next!Print