‘Fish Fragrant’ aubergine is perhaps a misleading title for this aubergine recipe. The dish doesn’t contain fish, and doesn't taste of fish - but the basic spice combination was once a traditional seasoning for fish dishes in Sichuan, China.
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 works very well too.
Ingredients Serves: 4
- 8 cloud ear mushrooms
- 2 medium aubergines
- 500ml vegetable oil to deep fry (4 tbsp if shallow frying)
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 vegetable or peanut oil
- 2 inches fresh ginger, grated
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tbsp Sichuan chilli paste
- 1 tsp potato starch
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, dry fried until fragrant and ground
- Soak the mushrooms in just-boiled water for 15 minutes to rehydrate.
- 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 . Drain them on kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Instead if you're shallow frying, use a heavy base pan with a little oil, and cook the aubergine chips for 5-10 minutes on a medium to high heat until golden brown on the outside and starting to become tender on the inside.
- Mix together the Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang vinegar, light soy, stock and caster sugar in a small jug.
- Heat the groundnut oil in a wok and cook the ginger, garlic and Sichuan chilli paste on a low heat for 2 minutes.
- Cut the rehydrated mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and add them to the wok. Pour in the sauce, and add the cooked aubergines.
- Simmer for 10 minutes. Mix the potato starch in 1 tbsp cold water, and then pour into the sauce to thicken along with the sichuan pepper.
Read more articles about Chinese cooking and traditional Chinese recipes on the website here. And if you're keen to get started, this Chinese Cooking Set pairs many of the ingredients you'd need in this recipe along with one of the best cookbooks to learn more about Chinese cooking, including many vegetable-focussed recipes.