Shanghai Spicy Eggplants
Eggplants contain rich nutrients, especially the bright purple skin that’s packed with anthocyanins. They are a rich source of antioxidants and manganese — a cup of eggplant can provide 6 to 10 percent of daily manganese needs. Available throughout the year, eggplants are at their best and freshest in late summer and are also easy to store. Try this quick n tasty dish.
1 pound Asian eggplant (454g), (see note 1)
3/4 cup canola oil, or any neutral oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons doubanjiang, (see note 2)
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn, ground (optional, see note 3)
1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons red chili flakes, depending on your desired level of spice
2 teaspoons sugar, (see note 4)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
sliced scallions for garnish
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Slice the eggplant into 2.5 to 3-inch sections. Then, slice each section into batons (or strips) that are about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. You don’t need to salt the eggplant for this recipe (see note 5 for more info). Set the eggplant aside.
Add 3/4 cup of oil to a wok and heat it over medium-high heat. (See note 5) Once the temperature reaches about 375ºF, it is ready for frying. You can test the temperature with a thermometer or by taking a small piece of eggplant and adding it to the wok. If the oil around the eggplant bubbles rapidly, the oil is ready for frying.
Working in batches, add a large handful of eggplant batons to the wok. Flash fry for about 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, flipping the batons halfway. Using tongs, transfer the eggplants into a spider spatula. Give the spider spatula a gentle shake to shake off any excess oil from the eggplant. Then, transfer the flash-fried eggplant to a plate and flash fry another batch of eggplant batons.
Eggplant absorbs oil like a sponge. After about 2 or 3 batches of frying, you’ll notice that there’s less oil in the wok. As a result, you’ll want to fry in smaller batches for the remaining eggplant. You can also add more oil to the wok.
Once all the eggplant has been flash fried, turn off the heat. Pour some of the excess oil into a heat-safe bowl, leaving about 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. (See note 7)
In a small bowl, make the cornstarch slurry by whisking 1/2 cup water with 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch. This slurry will thicken the sauce later.
Heat the wok over medium-high heat again. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant. Next, add the doubanjiang and swirl the paste into the hot oil. Cook for another 30 seconds. Then, add the ground Sichuan peppercorn (if using), red chili flakes, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine.
Whisk the cornstarch slurry again before pouring it into the wok. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil and let the sauce simmer for 30 seconds to a minute to allow the sauce to thicken slightly. Add all the flash-fried eggplant back into the wok and stir to combine with the sauce. Turn off the heat and transfer the eggplant to a serving plate. Garnish the spicy eggplant with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve the spicy eggplant stir fry with jasmine rice.