Monday, November 3, 2014

Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Eggplant with Basil (Ke Jia Tsao Qie Zi)

I'm not all that familiar with Hakka cuisine, but I came across this recipe in Tsung-Yun Wang's Home-Style Taiwanese Cooking. This dish is very similar to the "Eggplant in Garlic Sauce" found on the menus of many a Chinese restaurant here in SoCal (not the spicy Szechuan version, but more of a Beijing or Shanghai style). There's no meat in this dish and the eggplant is sautéed in a savory-sweet sauce of finely minced garlic, soy sauce and a touch of sugar. I guess what makes this dish distinctive is the addition of a generous amount of fresh basil leaves right before serving. 

3 large Chinese eggplants, ends cut off, each cut into 3rds, then sliced into 3" x 1/2" sticks
(ok to substitute with about 2 lbs. of Japanese or Italian eggplants)

5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2-3 red Fresno chiles, seeded and sliced
3 cups of vegetable oil
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar

2 cups basil leaves (remove any stems), Thai or Taiwan basil preferred, but ok to sub with regular sweet basil

1. Prep all the veggies.

2. Heat 3 cups of oil in a large wok or saute pan over medium high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add half of the eggplant pieces and cook for about 1 minute, swirling them occasionally with a spatula or slotted spoon until they have softened slightly. Remove to a paper towel to drain and repeat with the remaining eggplant. 

3. Pour out all but 1-2 tbsp. of oil (not more, or the dish may become too oily) in the pan and return back to the heat. Add the garlic and chiles and saute briefly. 

4. Blot the fried eggplant with additional paper towels to remove any excess oil and add to the garlic and chiles in the pan. Stir in the soy sauce and sugar and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. 

5. Stir in the fresh basil leaves, cover, turn off the heat and let sit 5 minutes. 

6. Plate and serve with steamed white rice on the side. 

Eggplant, basil, minced garlic and sliced Fresno chiles. 

Fry the eggplant in two batches (about 1 minute each). 

Drain the eggplant on paper towels. 

Pour out all but 1-2 tbsp. of oil in the pan and saute the garlic and chiles. 

Add the eggplant, soy sauce and sugar and saute 2-3 minutes. 

Stir in the fresh basil leaves, cover, turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes. 

Plate and serve with steamed white rice. 

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