This is all my brother’s fault. He was raving about the Sichuan chinese chicken and eggplant with garlic sauce that he had at a local restaurant. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, and I already had the eggplant (bought to make eggplant parmesan), so I figured I would give it a try.
This recipe is adapted from The New York Times. It originally called for minced garlic, soybean paste, and hot chili paste. I had the garlic, but not the other ingredients, so I improvised. I replaced the soybean paste with hoisin sauce, and used chili garlic sauce instead of the garlic and chili paste. Doing that also saved me an extra step (no garlic to chop). I reduced the water a bit to compensate. That recipe also called for ground pork (which I didn’t have because I’d eaten the last of it with my black beans, so I used chicken instead).
Eggplant is notorious for soaking up oil. There are several schools of thought about preparing eggplant in order to minimize this.
Some insist you have to salt it and let it sit (to draw out the water) and dry it with a paper towel and let it sit for 45 minutes. Others say to put it in water, salt the water, cover that with a lid or a heavy weight, and let it sit for 15 minutes, then drain, and dry it off.
A third way (which I just learned, and wouldn’t necessarily do for Chinese food), is to soak the eggplant in milk.
I tend to use the first method, but I confess I usually don’t wait that long. I’m too impatient (and hungry). I get around it by slicing the eggplant very thin.
If you want your eggplant extra crispy, dredge it in cornstarch before you cook it.
More Asian Recipes
Ingredients and Tools to Make Sichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
Sweet, slightly tangy and great for this dish, as well as marinades. Try it with a simple pork roast, sliced and served with steamed bread and scallions. Or, marinate fish with garlic, hoisin, and five spice powder. It’s also great in stir fries.
In case you haven’t guessed (since I keep mentioning it), I love this stuff. It’s got more heat than sriracha (which has sugar), plus the extra flavor boost from garlic. I put it on eggs, in marinades, stir-fries, veggies, enchiladas, soup. Someone on Amazon mentioned mixing it with some plum sauce and cooking it with chicken. I’m going to try that next!
If you want to be authentic, get the chili paste. Use it for this recipe, or for making Thai or Indonesian recipes. It makes a great starting base for marinades and sauces. Mix it into meatloaf or top some scrambled eggs. Think of it as sriracha with more kick.