The actual name for this dish in Sichuan cuisine oddly translates to "Fish-Fragrant" Eggplant. Confusing, as this dish has no fish anywhere in it. Fish-Fragrant is a combination of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy tastes that come from ginger, garlic, scallions and fermented or pickled chilies. It is so named because these flavors are often used to enhance fish. This recipe has been toned down considerably for the everyday non-Sichuan eater as the original recipe is like swallowing lava. Even if you fancy yourself a talented fire-eater, use only a small amount of the chili bean paste in your first try as it is incredibly spicy. This recipe calls for asian eggplants, or Japanese eggplants. They are long and thin compared to a European or globe eggplant, and much more tender and delicate. If you can't find them you can substitute globe eggplant, but the dish is really best with the asian eggplant. Serves 4.
- Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and chop into large batons and set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the chicken stock, sugar, and soy sauce and set it aside.
- In a second bowl, mix together the chili bean paste, garlic, ginger, and sichuan peppercorns and set it aside.
- In a third bowl, mix together the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and set it aside.
- Lastly, in a fourth bowl, mix together the scallions and vinegar and set it aside.
- Place the oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil is almost smoking. Add the eggplant and sauté, allowing it to sit for a few seconds each time you move it to allow it to brown and blister. If the eggplant absorbs all the oil and some pieces don't get any then add a little more oil.
- Add the chili bean paste, garlic, ginger, and sichuan peppercorns and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken stock mixture, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 90 seconds.
- Add the cornstarch mixture and stir together until the sauce thickens a bit.
- Add the scallions and vinegar and cook for 15 seconds to diffuse their flavours.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.