Chinese fish-fragrant aubergines
Try this delicious vegan dish believed to have been invented on the banks of the Yangtze river in Sichuan. Stir-fry the aubergine until golden brown and buttery in a sweet and sour sauce
- Serves: 4 persons
- 450g long Chinese aubergines or Japanese aubergines (about 3 small)
- 360ml vegetable oil, for deep frying
- 60g potato starch or cornflour
- 1 ½tbsp Sichuan chilli bean paste or pickled chilli paste
- 3cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1tbsp ginger, finely chopped
- 2spring onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
- 120ml unsalted stock (any kind) or water
- 1tbsp sugar
- 1tbsp soy sauce
- 1tbsp chinkiang black rice vinegar
- ½tsp potato starch or cornflour
Step 1To make the sauce, whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Cut the aubergines lengthways into sections, then slice into 1.5cm wedges. Put 1½ tbsp sea salt in a large bowl with 720ml water and whisk until the salt dissolves. Submerge the aubergines and soak for 15 mins – salting helps to relax the flesh, reduce bitterness and prevent it from soaking up excessive oil. Drain and pat the wedges dry.
Step 2Heat 360ml oil in a wok over a medium-high heat. Coat the aubergines lightly in the potato starch or cornflour. When the oil reaches 190C (when a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds, it’s ready), fry the aubergines in batches, flipping and turning occasionally, for 3-4 mins or until the edges are slightly golden and the skin is glossy purple and wrinkled. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Pour the oil into a heatproof container and reserve for another day, leaving about 1 tbsp oil in the wok.
Step 3Re-heat the wok over a medium heat. Lower the heat and stir-fry the chilli bean or pickled chilli paste for 30 seconds until its red oil is released. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onion whites, and stir-fry for another 30 seconds until just aromatic. Push the aromatics up one side of the wok and pour the sauce mixture into the middle.
Step 4Gently fold the fried aubergine into the sauce and simmer for 2 mins until the aubergine absorbs the flavours and the liquid thickens. Transfer to a plate, garnish with the spring onion greens and serve immediately.