‘Fish Fragrant’ aubergine is misleading title. The dish doesn’t contain fish, and doesn’t taste of fish – but the basic spice combination was once the traditional seasoning for fish dishes.
This hot, salty Sichuan specialty makes an exotic vegetable side dish. It works well as a single dish making up part of a Chinese banquet, or eaten as a vegetarian main with rice. The traditional method is to deep fry the aubergines – but if you want an easier and less-oily recipe, then shallow frying them is good too.
Recipe: Fish Fragrant Aubergine
Side dish for 4
8 cloud ear mushrooms
500ml vegetable oil
For the sauce
30ml Shaoxing wine
20ml Black Chinkiang vinegar
10ml light soy sauce
100ml vegetable stock or water
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp groundnut oil
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp Sichuan chilli paste
1 tsp potato starch
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground
1. Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 15 minutes to rehydrate.
2. Cut the aubergine into potato chip-sized slices. Heat the vegetable oil to 180°C using a probe thermometer, and deep fry the aubergine slices in batches of five. After thirty seconds in the hot oil, the outside will look wrinkled and cooked, and the flesh inside will be buttery soft . Rest them on kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.
NB. Shallow frying is fine (though non-traditional) – use a heavy base pan with a splash of oil, and cook the aubergine chips for five minutes on a medium heat.
3. Mix together the Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang vinegar, light soy, stock and caster sugar in a small jug.
4. Heat the groundnut oil in a wok and cook the ginger, garlic and Sichuan chilli paste on a low heat for 2 minutes.
5. Cut the rehydrated mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and add them to the wok. Pour in the sauce, and add the cooked aubergines.
6. Simmer for 10 minutes, thicken with potato starch, and garnish with Sichuan pepper.