Chinese Aubergines with Garlic
We’re celebrating the Chinese New Year this month and this is a Chinese dish which brings me particularly happy memories.
I met my daughter in Shanghai prior to a momentous backpacking journey all around China and Tibet. The day before we set out we had lunch with some of my daughter’s colleagues – I noticed two of them were eating this aubergine mixture and I thought I’d try it.
I was delighted I did – it tastes great and unlike a lot of aubergine dishes it doesn’t take long.
It goes well with all sorts of things – white fish, chicken breasts…I think it would go well with a few toasted pecans and some raisins too.
Tangy Chinese Aubergines
The dish my daughter missed the most after coming back from China. It is a fantastic way of cooking aubergine. The recipe can be easily adapted for vegans and vegetarians, by removing the mince and using vegetable stock instead.
- 2 aubergines (cut to 8cm sticks)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (to coat the aubergine)
- 3 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar (balsamic vinegar will do if you can't find any)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine (you can also use dry sherry, mirin or wine vinegar if you can't find any)
- 1 tbsp Fermented Chilli Bean Paste
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup chicken/vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 cup peanut oil
- 4 spring onions (normal onions will do)
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 thumbswidth fresh ginger grated (you can keep a whole root in the freezer and grate from frozen without peeling. It's much nicer than ground ginger.)
- 1/2 lbs beef/pork/lamb mince ((230g) pork is more typical for Chinese cuisine, but beef and lamb are also fine)
- 1 handful peanuts
Chop the aubergine into long sticks about 8 cm long and 6mm thick.
Place the aubergine in a large bowl and add water to cover. Add 1 tsp salt and mix well. Weight the aubergines with a lid of sorts to keep them under water for 15 mins then drain and pat dry.
Mix the vinegar, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, fermented chilli bean paste, sugar, stock and cornstarch together in a bowl.
Coat the aubergine with cornstarch.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan until hot and then spread the aubergine across the pan so that you can fry one side at a time until all surfaces are charred and the aubergine is soft. This should take 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. You may have to do this in multiple batches.
Leaving about a tablespoon of the oil in the pan, add the mince, chopped onions, garlic and ginger and cook until golden.
Stir the sauce again to completely dissolve the cornstarch, then pour into the pan. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
If you want to at this stage you can scatter in some peanuts. This isn't typical, but it gives an added crunch.
Add the aubergines and mix well.
Serve as a side dish or as a main with rice