The first thing you need to know about this dish is that no fishes are involved! It has this name because the combination of ingredients and the method of making the dish are very similar to some fish recipes. It is a famous dish from the province of Sichuan but is now served all over China.
To be honest, aubergines have never been one of my favourite vegetables (except for Baba Ghanoush) though I have tolerated them in moussaka, ratatouille etc. It wasn’t until I came to live in Beijing that I really started to appreciate them in their own right. Now I have become quite a fan…
Fish Fragrant Aubergine is a flavoursome vegetarian dish, and would be served with three or four other dishes to make a Chinese meal. Moreover, it fits well into western meals as it is a great vegetable side dish for grilled pork chops/sausages etc.
This is my version of the famous dish, I have adapted it as the ‘real’ version involves deep-frying which I don’t do. If you want to try the authentic recipe I suggest you look at one of Fuchsia Dunlop’s cookbooks , I refer to them all the time and cannot recommend them more highly. She is THE western expert on Chinese cooking in general and Sichuan cooking in particular.
FISH FRAGRANT AUBERGINE – MY VERSION
2 or 3 aubergines – total weight approx 600g Salt Vegetable oil 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 Tablespoon cornflour (corn-starch) slackend with 2 Tablespoons water 100ml vegetarian stock 1 Tablespoon light soy sauce 1 Tablespoon (more if you like it spicy) chilli paste/sauce -NOT sweet chilli sauce 1 teaspoon sugar 1 Tablespoon dark Chinese rice vinegar – eg Shanxi vinegar. 1 teaspoon sesame oil 2 or 3 spring onions (scallions) green part only, finely sliced for garnish
Cut the aubergines in half length-wise, and then cut each half in half again. Cut these long pieces into even-sized bits, not too big. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave in a colander for approx 30mins to drain.
Heat a wok or large frying pan until very hot, add two or three Tablespoons of vegetable oil, then add some of the aubergine pieces, stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until soft and golden and remove to a side dish lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil; keep doing this until all aubergine is cooked, adding a little more oil as and when necessary.
Now add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, and when hot add the chilli paste, garlic and ginger; stir-fry for 2-3 minutes before adding the sugar, soy sauce and stock. Mix well and let it all cook together for a few minutes.
Return the aubergine to the pan and stir together with the sauce. Now add the slackened cornflour and stir gently as it thickens. Stir in the vinegar and spring onions and allow it to cook down for 2 minutes or so. Finally stir in the sesame oil.
Remove from the pan to a dish and serve immediately – although this dish is also good served at room temperature.