Chinese eggplant recipe--Szechuan fish sauce eggplant (Yu Xiang Eggplant) is often listed as Chinese eggplant in hot garlic sauce. It is a savory dish with a fabulous balance of hot, sweet, and sour flavors. This can be the first topping Chinese eggplant recipe.
What's Yu Xiang sauce?
Yu Xiang sauce or fish flavor sauce is often referred to as hot garlic sauce. It is made with a variety of ingredients including chili peppers, garlic, ginger, scallion, black vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. The sauce is often used as a combined stir-frying sauce. One of the representatives of Sichuan cuisine is Sichuan eggplant, or Yu Xiang Qie Zi(鱼香茄子in Chinese), and the famous Yu Xiang Rou Si(鱼香肉丝 or fish-fragrant shredded pork). Some menus name Yu Xiang eggplant as Chinese Eggplants in hot garlic sauce.
The sauce can also be used to serve as a dipping sauce or make fried rice. There are discussions about the reason why this sauce is called fish fragrance. We get two reasonable reasons here.
- the sauce is commonly used to cook fish and then move forward to other dishes. So the sauce is named fish flavor or fish fragrance in Chinese.
- The key ingredient pickled chili pepper is pickled with a fish in the jar. So it brings a natural smell of fish.
So which one looks more reasonable for you?
What does Yu Xiang Sauce taste?
The Yu Xiang sauce has well-balanced sweet, savory, and hot flavors. This is extremely common in Sichuan cuisine in which many unique flavors can be achieved by adjusting the ratio of the ingredients. This unique fish fragrant sauce is made with pickled red pepper, garlic, ginger, scallions, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar. The particular balanced flavor can be good with almost all types of protein and vegetables. Plus, you can use the sauce to make fried rice too.
The flavors of Yu Xiang sauce might be slightly different in areas in Sichuan. In some places, only pickled peppers are used while in other places doubanjiang is also used for a stronger flavor and color. Compared with other chili sauces, doubanjiang has a strong capacity of adding red color to the dish. You can make a quick pickled pepper via this instruction.
Although Sichuan peppercorn is commonly used in many Sichuan dishes, we do not need it for the fish fragrant series.
Well, as the key ingredient, I highly recommend you try to get some pickled chili peppers. But this can be pickled chili pepper (泡椒) can be replaced by doubanjiang for sure. Although the flavor may differ a lot, I am sure doubanjiang can create lovely flavors too. Also, you can check this fermented chili paste which may work really better as a substitute for Sichuan pickled peppers.
Cook eggplants with less oil
One of the reasons why eggplants seem hard to cook is because they absorb lots of oil at the first stage of heating. In restaurants, eggplants are usually deep-fried first before stir fry with seasonings. Deep-frying in a large amount of oil can keep the purple color and cook the eggplants very quickly. So that's a restaurant-efficient pursing method. But it is not a very economic choice for home cooking. So pan-frying sounds like a better choice. We can use pan-frying with a very small amount of oil but achieve a very similar result. Following are tips for pan-frying with less oil at home.
- soak the eggplants in salty water for around 15 minutes. The water absorbed can fasten up the cooking process.
- Coat a layer of starch on the eggplant strips. Starch helps to form a crispy shell and better sauce attachment. But optional!
Eggplants - almost every type of eggplant works
ground pork- or chicken or beef
Pickled peppers - this may be hard to find but can be replaced by doubanjiang in daily cooking.
Doubanjiang - I combine doubanjiang with pickled peppers to increase the red color of the dish.
Black vinegar - for the lovely sour taste
Light soy sauce - for savory basement
Starch - I recommend using cornstarch or potato starch for coating the eggplants and thickening the bowl sauce.
Sugar - I use a larger amount of sugar to present a strong sweet flavor.
Ginger, garlic, and green onion (scallion) - basic aromatics for most Sichuan sauces.
Cut eggplant into strips and then soak them in salty water for 10 minutes. Remember to add weight. Then drain and spread ½ cup of cornstarch in batches. Mix well, and make sure all of the eggplant strips are well coated.
Add oil to pan or wok and fry eggplants until soft. Transfer out. You can do this by batches and leave some space between each strip so they will not stick together.
Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok, and fry minced pork until crisp and browned. Add doubanjiang and chopped pepper to continue cooking for 1 minute for red oil. Add garlic, chopped peppers, green onion white part, and ginger to stir-fry for the aroma.
After adding the sauce, add eggplants and then mix well quickly.
What to serve with?
The top partner for Yuxiang eggplants is plain staple food like steamed rice or noodles because there are lots of sauces that can attach to the grains and noodles.
Other Yu Xiang dishes
Other eggplants recipes
- Chinese eggplants with minced pork
- Savory crispy eggplants
- Chinese stuffed eggplants
- Di San Xian- eggplants with green pepper and potatoes
- Steamed eggplant with a chili sauce
Yu Xiang Qie Zi (Sichuan Eggplant)
- 2 long eggplants , around 400g
- ¼ cup mince pork
- 1 tbsp. chopped pickled peppers
- ½ tbsp. broad bean paste , Doubanjiang
- 2 garlic cloves , chopped
- 1 tbsp. chopped ginger
- 2 green onions , white part and green part separately chopped
- 2 tbsp. vegetable cooking oil
- 1 tsp. salt for soaking
- starch for coating
- 2 tsp. light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. black vinegar
- 5 tbsp. water
- 1 tbsp. starch , cornstarch
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Prepare the eggplants | Roll cut washed eggplants into long strips (try to keep some skin on each one). Then soak the eggplant strips in salty water for around 15 minutes. Move out and drain. Coat with starch (optional but I recommend using since this helps the sauce attach on the eggplants)
- Prepare the bowl sauce | Prepare a bowl; mix all the ingredients for stir fry sauce. Then set aside.
Fry the eggplants
- Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in wok or a pan and fry the eggplants until slightly browned by batches.
Make Yu Xiang Sauce
- Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in wok, and fry mince pork until crisp and browned. Add doubanjiang and chopped pepper to continue cooking for 1 minute for red oil. Add garlic, chopped peppers, green onion white part and ginger to stir-fry for the aroma.
- Stir in the sauce. Cook for a while until the sauce is thickened.
Assemble the dish
- Mix well and make sure the eggplants are well coated. Move from wok, sprinkle chopped green onion! I highly recommend serving this with steamed rice. The magic sauce can turn plain steamed rice into something extremely delicious.
This is my new favorite way to use frozen vegetables that have been cluttering the freezer, bar none. It tastes great and it's wildly flexible!
I absolutely loved this dish!! Thanks you for the recipe.
delicious omnomnomnom love serious eats love kenji best chef!!
Loved the dish. Tastes delicious. Thanks.
Thanks for the feedback!!
It was fantastic!!!! Thank you so much!
Love you, Maria!
Great recipe! Easy to follow 🙂 Thank you very much!
Thank you, Liz!!
So delicious even without the pork and pickled peppers!
Thank you again Elaine!
Excellent recipe-- tastes just like those I had in Beijing and Chengdu. The instructions are a bit confusing as to when you add stir-the fried eggplants as you fry the meat, peppers, doubanjiang, garlic, ginger, green onions? I added the eggplants right after the meat turned brown. I also used a bit less sugar.
Never mind, Lin. The pork should be fired firstly and then chili paste, chili pepper and aromatics. Then add the sauce and mix eggplants in.