Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Yu Xiang Eggplant

I'm really excited about today's post because my friend Jorge is sharing one of his favourite recipes with us today. Jorge and I went to a summer school together a few years back and since then he's been one of my favourite people I see at conferences. Partly because he's plain awesome and studies stuff that is way cooler than my stuff (there was a poster about magicians a while back...need I say more?!?!?). But also because he likes food as much as I do. And you need conference buddies who will go and eat good food with you! 
Anyhow, I hope you'll be as excited about this recipe as I am already. If you give it a try, let us know in the comments!

Hello everybody! Katharina has kindly invited me to write a guest post on her blog and I am very happy to bring you one of my favorite Chinese dishes.

I have liked Chinese food for a while but it was after I came to the US and especially after I met Jin (now my wife) when I really started to love it and appreciate it. On the way I also learned that the Chinese food in most restaurants is Cantonese food (from the South East of China, near Hong Kong) and that there are many more types of food in China. Among the different foods of China I totally fell in love with Sichuanese food. If you like spicy food and fish and have the chance to go to a Sichuanese restaurant please try the water boiled fish.

This recipe is special for me because it was the first recipe I learned on my own, without Jin’s help. I cannot take any credit for it. It is a traditional Chinese recipe (from Sichuan of course), and I learned it from the great book “Land of Plenty” by Fuchsia Dunlop ( I totally recommend it.

These amounts can probably feed 2 or 3 people with some white rice but usually, in a Chinese meal, there would be more dishes so you could share everything among 4 or 5 people.

Yu Xiang Eggplant
4 Asian Eggplants (I have never tried to do it with regular eggplants, I am not sure they will work as well)
1 and ½ tablespoons of Sichuan Chili Bean Paste, aka chili broad bean paste or pixian paste
3 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
Ginger, also finely chopped, same amount as garlic
4 Scallions, only green parts, sliced into rings
½ cup of Chicken Stock, I usually don’t have it handy so I just use water
2 teaspoon of Sugar
1 teaspoon of Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons of (Chinkiang) Black Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons of Starch (corn, potato, tapioca … I guess it doesn’t matter) diluted in a little bit of water
1 teaspoon of Sesame Oil

© Jorge Otero-Millan
First, cut the eggplants lengthwise in two halves and cut each half in 3 or 4 pieces. Then deep fry them until they are golden and soft. Don't do them all at once of course! I usually let them rest in some paper towels to take some of the oil out. If you want to go more health but of course less tasty (everything is better deep fried) you can just stir fry them until they are soft.

Now is when the nice smells will start. First heat some oil, like 3 tablespoons, and add the chill bean paste Let the paste 'melt' into the oil but don't burn it! Then add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for around 30 seconds until the are golden and you get the amazing smell. Again, careful not to burn the stuff.

Add the stock, sugar, soy sauce, and salt to taste (many 1 or 2 tablespoons). Mix everything well and add the eggplants. Move them carefully, they will be delicate, and simmer them for a few minutes. 
Add the starch mixed with water and let the sauce reduce and thicken. Then add the vinegar and the scallions and cook them for just a moment. 
Finally, take off the heat and add the sesame oil and enjoy! 
If everything went right, the eggplants should just melt in your mouth.

© Jorge Otero-Millan

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