Sichuan cuisine is definitely my favourite Chinese cuisine and Fuchsia Dunlop is a fantastic Sichuan chef and cookbook author. I bought one of her cookbooks, Sichuan Cookery after visiting China the first time, and on my recent trip i read her incredibly interesting autobiography. She actually isn't Chinese - she's English but was one of the first westerners to study Sichuan cookery in the 1990s.
So what does one cook after arriving back in Australia after 5 weeks overseas? Well personally i would have expected to crave salads, mexican, indian or some other food that i hadn't eaten for months but no, i felt like chinese!
This recipe is really easy to make and should be served as part of a banquet Chinese-style perhaps with a tofu dish and a green vegetable dish plus rice. Because i was cooking for one i simply served it with some quinoa - something i did miss whilst overseas!
I adapted the recipe by steaming the chopped eggplant for 30 minutes rather than frying. After all the Christmas festivities plus overseas eating i really need to get healthy again! Luckily steaming the eggplant worked brilliantly and i will do it again this way in the future.
Fish-Fragrant Eggplant - Fuchsia Dunlop
2 medium sized eggplants, cut into quarters or eighths, then chopped into chunks
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp chilli bean paste (i used lee kum kee brand)
3 tsp finely chopped ginger
3 tsp finely chopped garlic
150ml vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1tbsp water (the original recipe uses potato flour)
1 1/2 tsp black vinegar
4 spring onions, finely chopped, green part only
1 tsp sesame oil
Steam eggplant for 30 minutes or until very tender.
In a wok, heat oil and cook chilli bean paste for 20-30 seconds until fragrant. Add ginger and garlic and cook for another 20 seconds ensuring it does not burn.
Add stock, sugar and soy and stir to mix well before adding eggplant.
Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes in order to reduce the sauce a little and allow the eggplant to absorb the flavour.
Drizzle over the cornflour slurry and stir gently to incorporate.
Stir in vinegar and spring onion then remove from heat.
Drizzle over sesame oil and serve
If you're interested, the title 'fish-fragrant' comes from the combination of flavours: salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Basically in needs to include chilli bean paste (or pickled chillis), ginger, garlic and spring onions.