Recipe

Charred Sichuan-Style Eggplant

by Sasha Marx

We all know that eggplant can absorb serious quantities of oil. That’s a negative when the oil in question is flavorless frying oil. But what if I flipped the script and put that sponge effect to work for me by providing the eggplant with a seriously tasty, spicy Sichuan-style chili oil to soak up? To speed cooking and get great char on the eggplant, I use the microwave to slightly dehydrate it before putting it in a smoking hot pan. Some green bell pepper, scallions, and fresh cilantro sprigs provide a fresh and cooling reprieve to the rest of the dish. But let’s be clear here, you want to serve this dish with plenty of steamed white rice to tame the heat. Consider this a sneaky, delicious way to get even the most Ron Swanson-y of carnivores to eat a vegetarian stir-fry. 

Yield
Serves 2 to 3
SichuanEggplant-41.jpg
Ingredients
75 g plus 37 g vegetable oil, divided
12 g garlic cloves (2 cloves), sliced thin
10 g bird chiles, ground fine
6 g fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 g star anise
75 g hoisin sauce
50 g fermented black beans
30 g plus 60 g Shaoxing Chinese rice wine, divided
15 g sugar
650 g Japanese eggplant (2 large eggplants), sliced in half lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces
3 g kosher salt
95 g green bell pepper (1 pepper), stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
60 g water
60 g scallions, green parts cut into 1-inch pieces, white parts sliced thin, divided
12 g fresh cilantro sprigs, cut into 2-inch pieces
⅓ cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2  garlic cloves, sliced thin
15  bird chiles, ground fine (1½ tablespoons)
1  (½-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1  star anise pod
¼ cup hoisin sauce
½ cup fermented black beans
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup Shaoxing Chinese rice wine, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
2  large Japanese eggplants (1½ pounds), sliced in half lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1  green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup water
6  scallions, green parts cut into 1-inch pieces, white parts sliced thin, divided
12 sprigs fresh cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces
Essential Equipment
Instructions
    • 75 g vegetable oil 
    • 12 g garlic cloves (2 cloves), sliced thin 
    • 10 g bird chiles, ground fine 
    • 6 g fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin 
    • 1 g star anise 
    • 75 g hoisin sauce 
    • 50 g fermented black beans 
    • 30 g Shaoxing Chinese rice wine 
    • 15 g sugar
    Combine oil, garlic, bird chiles, ginger, and star anise in small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until sizzling. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until garlic and ginger are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in hoisin, beans, rice wine, and sugar until combined; set aside. 
    • 650 g Japanese eggplant (2 large eggplants), sliced in half lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces 
    • 3 g kosher salt
    Toss eggplant and salt together in medium bowl. Line entire surface of large microwave-safe dish with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over coffee filters. Microwave on high power until eggplant feels dry and pieces shrink to about 1 inch, about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through to dry sides evenly. Remove eggplant from microwave and immediately transfer to paper towel–lined plate.
    • 37 g vegetable oil 
    • 95 g green bell pepper (1 pepper), stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
    Heat 25 grams oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add eggplant in even layer and cook, tossing or stirring occasionally, until pieces are charred on most sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Push eggplant to outer edges of skillet and add remaining 12 grams oil and bell pepper to center. Continue to cook, without stirring, until bell pepper is lightly charred, about 3 minutes longer. 
    • 60 g Shaoxing Chinese rice wine 
    • 60 g water 
    • 60 g scallions, green parts cut into 1-inch pieces, white parts sliced thin, divided 
    • 12 g fresh cilantro sprigs, cut into 2-inch pieces
    Reduce heat to medium and add rice wine and water, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 seconds. Stir in scallion greens and toss or stir until slightly wilted, about 15 seconds. Turn off heat and stir in garlic–black bean sauce until combined. Transfer to serving platter and top with scallion whites and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Instructions
    • ⅓ cup vegetable oil 
    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin 
    • 15 bird chiles, ground fine (1½ tablespoons) 
    • 1 (½-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin 
    • 1 star anise pod 
    • ¼ cup hoisin sauce 
    • ½ cup fermented black beans 
    • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing Chinese rice wine 
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    Combine oil, garlic, bird chiles, ginger, and star anise in small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until sizzling. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until garlic and ginger are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in hoisin, beans, rice wine, and sugar until combined; set aside. 
    • 2 large Japanese eggplants (1½ pounds), sliced in half lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces 
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    Toss eggplant and salt together in medium bowl. Line entire surface of large microwave-safe dish with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over coffee filters. Microwave on high power until eggplant feels dry and pieces shrink to about 1 inch, about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through to dry sides evenly. Remove eggplant from microwave and immediately transfer to paper towel–lined plate.
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
    • 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add eggplant in even layer and cook, tossing or stirring occasionally, until pieces are charred on most sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Push eggplant to outer edges of skillet and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and bell pepper to center. Continue to cook, without stirring, until bell pepper is lightly charred, about 3 minutes longer. 
    • ¼ cup Shaoxing Chinese rice wine 
    • ¼ cup water 
    • 6 scallions, green parts cut into 1-inch pieces, white parts sliced thin, divided 
    • 12 sprigs fresh cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces
    Reduce heat to medium and add rice wine and water, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 seconds. Stir in scallion greens and toss or stir until slightly wilted, about 15 seconds. Turn off heat and stir in garlic–black bean sauce until combined. Transfer to serving platter and top with scallion whites and cilantro. Serve immediately.
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