Author Notes: This recipe was almost called “Don’t Burn the Garlic Eggplant.” That is the most consistent ‘technique’ I’ve learned from my lovely mom about cooking. However, this week’s theme was a great opportunity for me to finally get this recipe that has a technique I always associate with her cooking. As a child, I remember watching my mom cutting a criss-cross pattern in the eggplant every time she made this dish. My mom says it helps the eggplant cook evenly and also let’s the flavors of the other ingredient absorb into the flesh. There are many other don’ts in this: Don’t add water. Don’t cover the pan. Don’t cut the chili peppers if you use them. When I tried her recipe as it is written below, I was thrilled it turned out almost just like hers…almost, of course, because nothing will ever be as good as Mom’s. —monkeymom
pounds Chinese or Japanese eggplant (about 4 large)
ounces pork (boneless country ribs, ground pork, or pork tenderloin all work fine. This can also be omitted if you want this to be vegetarian)
green onions, sliced thinly
garlic cloves, minced
tablespoons soy sauce
teaspoons sesame oil
teaspoon white pepper
teaspoon brown sugar
cup vegetable oil
optional: For a spicy dish, 1-2 whole green fresh Serrano chili peppers, 1-2 dried whole red peppers, or 1-2 Tbsp of hot chili oil.
- Cut the pork into small thin pieces and add 3 Tbsps of the soy sauce, the white pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Mix well. Marinate while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Wash and cut eggplants to about 3 inches long, and then slice each piece in half.
- Score each half ¼ inch deep on the skin side diagonally every 1/2 in. Then score perpendicular to the first set of score marks making a criss-cross pattern.
- Use a 12-inch nonstick frying pan. Heat the pan to medium. Add 3 Tbsps of cooking oil. Place half of the eggplants on the pan, purple skin side up. Don’t overlap. Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt on the eggplants. Check often. The eggplant will absorb the oil quickly, but it is okay. If the eggplant appears to be getting too dark and not softening, turn down the heat a bit. Turn the eggplants over when well-browned and softened slightly.
- Fry the purple skin side and sprinkle another ¼ tsp salt on the eggplant again. Fry the eggplants until it is softened and browned. Don’t cover the pan or add any water. Remove the browned eggplants to a plate. They should be slightly softened, but not falling apart. Repeat browning the other half of the eggplants as above and remove to same plate when done.
- In the same frying pan, heat 1 tablespoonful of cooking oil. (If you want the eggplant dish spicy, you can add the whole green or dried red chili peppers now. Stir fry them briefly to let them release their heat to the oil. Discard them. As an alternative, you can add purchased chili oil instead.) Add green onion and garlic. Stir them. Don’t burn them. Add marinated pork and brown them. (If doing a vegetarian version, mix up the marinade ingredients and add them here.)
- Put browned soft eggplants back into the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar and 1 Tbsp of soy sauce over the eggplants and mix well. Gently stir-fry them in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes until eggplants are softened enough to your desired texture. Taste and season with additional soy sauce, sugar, or salt as needed. Don’t cover the pan.
- My mom says “Remove your delicious eggplants to a beautiful plate and enjoy it with your family or friends.” Serve hot.
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