Sichuan dishes is one of the real Sichuan dishes that do not get the recognition they deserve. The reason for this is yet to be known. However, the situation is compounded by the fact that in Beijing, the stir fry is well known and served frequently in most restaurants.
What Is Szechuan Eggplant
The name Szechuan Eggplant has an interesting Chinese translation. By doing a word by word translation of its equivalent, the resulting name would be less than deserving of your appetite, unless of course, you are a big fan of sea foods. The name is ‘fish fragrant.’ Don’t be mistaken, while the sound of fish fragrant is enough to cause you to salivate, it can equally cause an anti-climax to someone else’s appetite. It is the classic case of one man’s meat being another man’s poison. The tale on how the name came about is a good one and I am sure it is going to interest you. It goes.
One evening, probably a normal and an uneventful one, a wife was preparing an eggplant to be taken for dinner. While she was getting busy at her kitchen, she realized that there was some extra fish sauce from previous meal, which she did not want to go to waste. The sauce had a strong flavor, since it was designed to mask the characteristic smell of mud fish which was common in that region. The lady ended up using the sauce, and the eggplant she served had a strong fish scent. Luckily, the husband liked the taste of the dish, so much, that the name, fish fragrance, or Yú xiāng became a common place.
Evidently, you don’t have to worry about fish or its fragrance or anything of that sort since it has noting to do with the Szechuan Eggplant Recipe.
Yú xiāng is one of the key flavors in the Sichuan cuisine. It is made using the following ingredients: soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, Chinkiang, spicy bean paste, fresh onions, ginger and garlic and peppers. A combination of these ingredients results in a savory sauce with a combination of sweet and a hint of sour, both of which have been perfectly balanced.
Below are the specifics of the Szechuan eggplant recipe if you are preparing a 2-3 serving meal:
- 500g eggplant, cut to 8 cm long sections
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup cornstarch to coat the eggplant
- 2 tablespoons Chinkiang Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, light
- 1 tablespoon Dry sherry, or Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon fermented chili bean paste
- 3 tablespoons, brown sugar
- ½ cup vegetable stock, or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil, or peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons garlic, finely crushed or minced
- 230g ground pork
- 7 medium sized Chinese dried chili peppers
- Dice the eggplants into bite sized pieces. Ideally you should aim for an average length of 5mm and a thickness of 6mm. You can find further guidance on guidance here, more so if it is your first time.
- Add water in a bowl together with a teaspoon of salt. Mix the salt till it dissolves. Dip the eggplant in the solution, and ensure that they are under water for at least 15 minutes, after which you should drain the excess water and pat the eggplants to dry.
- Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Stir properly to ensure an even mixture is obtained
- Prepare a thick cornstarch syrup by mixing the corn paste with a little water. Coat the eggplant with the paste until it is coated uniformly with a thin layer of the cornstarch.
- Place a skillet over a stove set to medium heat. Add oil and let the pan heat till hot. Just at the point where the oil is to begin producing smoke, spread the eggplants across the bottom of the skillet carefully while ensuring they do not overlap. Depending on the base area of your skillet, you may be forced to do this step in two or three batches.
- Fry the eggplants one side until the surface changes color, and it softens. Flip it to ensure it properly cooks, and it is charred. That should take a maximum of 7 minutes for each batch.
- Once all the eggplant batches are ready, remove the pan from the stove, and drain off excess oil by wiping it with a few pieces of paper towels held at the end of pair of tongs. Return it back to the stove and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil.
- To the pan set over medium heat, add Sichuan peppercorns and cook over medium heat until it turns color to dark brown. Once they are ready, remove and place them in a separate bowl.
- This step depends on whether you included pork in your ingredients, since it was optional. If you have, add them to the pan after removing the peppercorns. Remember, they should have been chopped to bite sized pieces. Add dried chili peppers, ginger, onion and garlic. Stir continuously until the pork begins turning brown, and produces fragrance.
- Re-stir the contents of the sauce again to ensure it dissolves fully, and add it to a pan set on a stove over medium heat. Stir continuously until it thickens. Add the eggplants on top while continuing with the mixing until all the contents are well mixed.
- Adjust the heat settings to low, and taste the sauce. Depending on its taste, you can choose to adjust the flavor by adding some salt or sugar, if need be. Re-adjust the heat to medium, and mix well. Transfer the contents of the pan to a plate and serve while hot.
Szechuan eggplant recipe is specially designed to prepare an accompaniment for rice, as the main dish.
Notes On Szechuan Eggplant Recipe
While preparing this meal, you are not restricted to using a specific type of eggplant. You can either go for regular eggplant or Asian Eggplant, provided you follow this Szechuan eggplant recipe, you will end up with a perfectly cooked meal.
Including pork in the recipe is optional and entirely depends with your preference, since it won’t make much difference to the recipe.
Properly cooked peppercorns are excellent for seasoning. You can save a little and grind them into a powder, and store it in an airtight container in a refrigerator.