Monday, August 19, 2013

Sichuan Eggplant (鱼香茄子)

Another recipe for Sichuan eggplant? I know, I know, there are already tons of recipes out there. But then, what am I going to do with all the Japanese eggplants from the garden? I could link to a recipe in some other websites, but like they say, every recipe has a story, so here's mine.

As I recall, Szechuan or Sichuan cuisine didn't appear in Chinese restaurants in America until the 80s. Remember the Pu-pu platters (Teriyaki Beef, Chicken Fingers, egg rolls, etc) and drinks called Zombie and Mai Tai? They were popular items on the menu of suburban Polynesian-styled Chinese restaurants, and boy, were they hot in the 80s! Then came Joyce Chen, who single handedly changed the landscape of Chinese cuisine, elevating it to a more gourmet level. 

For those who don't know, Joyce Chen is the Julia Child of Chinese cooking. She owned several Chinese restaurants in Cambridge, taught Chinese cooking, and had a show on PBS. In fact, she shared the same set as Julia Child's The French Chef in the studio of WGBH, Boston's local public TV station. Joyce Chen introduced not only Americans but also Chinese to Northern Chinese (or Mandarin) cuisine. My first experience eating Peking Duck and Moo Shu dishes served with pancakes was at Joyce Chen, a restaurant I also worked as a hostess during my college years. I absolutely love the  dumplings (or Peking ravioli) and the hot and sour soup. Competitors took notice. Soon, other Asian cuisines appeared on the horizon. There were Hunan and Szechuan, followed by Vietnamese, Cambodian, and in the last dozen years Malaysian and now, Korean.

If you've been to a Chinese buffet, chances are you've had Szechuan food. Most dishes are cooked in a brown sauce, packed with spices or hot chili peppers. Kung Pao, General Tso's Chicken and spicy garlic eggplant are some popular Szechuan dishes.

I'm a fan of spicy food, so Szechuan food is right up my alley. I've made Sichuan eggplant (also called Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce) a couple of times this week with the eggplants I picked from the garden. It's pretty simple when you use the ready-made spicy garlic sauce offered by Lee Kum Kee, the iconic Chinese sauce company, which you can find at any Asian grocery stores. Enjoy!
Japanese eggplants

Sichuan Eggplant or Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce (鱼香茄子)
[Print Recipe]
This recipe is at the back of the packet of sauce.
Serves 4

12 oz eggplant, about 2 (cut into strips)
3 oz minced pork
1 pack Lee Kum Kee Sauce for Spicy Garlic Eggplant

1. Deep-fry eggplants in hot oil or cook in boiling water. Drain.
2. Stir-fry minced pork in 1 tbsp oil until done. Add Lee Kum Kee  Sauce for Spicy Garlic Eggplant and eggplant. Stir well until heated through

Cook's Note: I use 3 Japanese eggplants, and I cooked them in boiling water for 5 minutes. I like it a tad spicier, so I added a Thai bird chili pepper.

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  1. I love this dish ! So yummy ! I have tried this readymade sauce, it's not bad at all ! I didn't know you worked as a waitress in your college years!

    1. Grace,
      I finally got a WP account and commented on your blog.

      Yes, I've done it all in various restaurants, from cashier, hostess, waitress to bartending and catering. Never did cook, except when absolutely necessary.

  2. 鱼香茄子 is one of my favorite dish to eat. Too bad I haven't make it for a long time because the rest of the family doesn't like it! :P But I certainly miss the flavors!

    1. Amy,
      Thanks for checking in.

      For the longest time, I couldn't get my husband to eat eggplants, but lately, he's been opening up, and now actually enjoying it! Try slowly easing your family in with the stuffed eggplant at dim sum restaurants. If they like Italian, eggplant parmigian is also good. And curry eggplant is also delicious.

      Good luck!