Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Spicy Szechuan Eggplant (Yu Xiang Qie Zi)

Also known as 'Fish-Fragrant Eggplant.' Well, there's nothing remotely fishy or fish-related in this dish. According to pretty much all historical accounts, the seasonings & sauce in this particular dish were incorporated into the less expensive fare of eggplant, and occasionally ground pork, by the less than affluent (i.e., 'commoners') in Szechuan Province in China in order to simulate the taste and ingredients used to flavor the region's local 'haute cuisine' fish dishes. I've omitted the ground pork here in this recipe, but I'll save that for another post. For a Taiwanese twist, stir in some whole Taiwanese or Thai basil leaves before serving.

3 Chinese or 5 Japanese eggplants cut along the bias into 2" pieces
2 tsp. salt
2 cups vegetable oil
1 tbsp. hot bean paste (2 tbsp. if adding pork)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
6 scallions, chopped
1 red jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
1-2 green jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
2-3 tsp. sugar (use 3 tsp. if adding pork)
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock 
2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1-2 tbsp. Chinking or Black vinegar, according to taste
1/4tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 tbsp. cornstarch + 1 tbsp. water (cornstarch slurry)

1/2 cup Thai, Taiwanese or sweet basil leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

1. Place the eggplant sliced into a colander and sprinkle with 2 tsp. of salt. Toss well and let sit for 1 hour.

2. Squeeze the eggplant as dry as possible with your hands, than blot any excess moisture off with paper towels.

3. Heat 2 cups of vegetable over high heat in a sauté pan. Saute the eggplant 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

4. Pour out all but 1 tbsp. of oil from the pan and return to the heat. Add hot bean paste and stir fry for several seconds until fragrant. 

5. Add the ginger, garlic, green & red chile peppers, and half of the scallions. Saute for about 10 seconds, the add the sugar and chicken stock. Bring up to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes. 

6. Add the eggplants and bring up to a boil again. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook briefly until the sauce has thickened. Stir in vinegar and ground Szechuan peppercorns. Stir in the basil leaves, if desired. 

7. Remove from heat and pour the eggplant mixture onto a serving platter. Top with the remaining chopped scallions and serve with steamed white rice.

Cut each eggplant in half, lengthwise, then slice along the bias into 2" pieces.

Place eggplant slices in a colander and toss with 2 tsp. salt. Let sit 1 hour. 

Squeeze eggplant with your hands as much as possible to rid of water, then blot any remaining moisture off with paper towels. Less water content in the eggplants means they will brown rather than steam when cooking. 

Chicken stock, cornstarch slurry, hot bean paste, sugar, and Chinkiang vinegar. 

Heat 2 cups of oil over high heat and sauté the eggplant until lightly browned and tender. 

Remove the eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  

Remove all but 1 tbsp. of oil in the pan and add the hot bean paste. Saute for several seconds or until fragrant.  

 Add the garlic, ginger, fresh chiles and half of the scallions.

Add the chicken stock and sugar. Bring up to a boil.  

Thicken with cornstarch slurry. 

Once thickened, turn off heat and add the vinegar, dark soy and ground Szechuan peppercorns.  

Plate and top with the remaining chopped scallions. Serve with steamed white rice.


  1. I tried this recipe yesterday and it is absolutely delicious!! I normally add pork mince as well but have since realised that just because everyone else does it, it doesn't mean I have to.

    Thank you!

    1. I'm glad you like it! I also usually cook this dish with minced/ground pork, but it's just as good without!