If you’ve ever indulged in what I call “reverse shopping,” such as buying an entire outfit to match, say, a scarf, tie, or sandals, you can understand how I did the same here by matching my cuisine to the small food vessel which caught my eye and had to purchase instantly: an aubergine colored mini dutch oven. The perfect food pairing for it, of course, would have to be eggplant which is just what I had at home, waiting to be prepared somehow. And here is what I did inspired, again, by Shun Lee’s Chinese cuisine.
Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
1 Lb eggplant (preferably small Japanese ones)
Vegetable oil for frying
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 large scallion, trimmed and cut into thin rings
1 Tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp hot bean (or red curry) paste
2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
Boil a large pot of water over high heat and keep the water simmering. Line a baking tray with paper towels and place near stove.
Cut the eggplant into sticks about 2″ long by 1/2″ wide.
Heat enough vegetable oil in a large wok so that it comes up the sides at least 1″ and heat to 325ºF. Working in batches, fry the eggplant sticks for 45 seconds, careful to not overcook. Using a wide wire mesh strainer, remover eggplant from wok and dip briefly in the hot water, then place it on the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant, in batches, careful to dry the water off the strainer before placing in the hot oil. Discard oil from wok, except for 3 Tbsp.
In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, rice wine and white pepper and set aside. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of water, and set aside.
Return the wok to high heat. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic and stir-fry for about 10 seconds. Add the hot bean paste and the soy sauce mixture, and stir-fry for 20-30 seconds, blending well. Add the eggplant and stir-fry until the sauce is boiling, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture, stirring to blend well. When the sauce thickens, add the sesame oil, remove from heat and serve immediately. This dish is wonderful on its own, perfect as appetizer or side dish, but it can also be served over rice as an entrée.