Eggplant is probably not the most popular (culinary) vegetable, but in our opinion, anything can taste delicious as long as it is cooked right. The Asian dish ‘Fish fragrant eggplant (yu xiang qie zi)‘ is definitely one of our top favourite way of eating eggplant, so we must learn this dish! It’s spicy, fragrant and so flavourful! It definitely has an acquired taste especially due to the smelly salted fish. In this recipe, we have learnt to substitute the fish with dried cuttlefish instead, which unfortunately may smell worse BUT prior to cooking. We felt it taste much better compared to the salted fish.
We also decided to use minced pork for this recipe. Some may use chicken or even pork belly. Firstly, you need to marinate the pork with some light soy sauce, cornstarch and sesame oil and then leave it in the refrigerator for about 20- 30 minutes. Next, finely process the dried cuttlefish with a food processor preferably and marinate with Chinese Shaoxing wine whilst preparing other ingredients. If you don’t have a food processor, you may soak it in hot water first, and finely dice them up prior to marinating. It might take a while though!
Wash the eggplants! Pat dry and chop them in chunks. In a shallow bowl, mix cornstarch and salt, and then lightly coat or dredge the white portions of the chunks with the mixture, and prepare to deep fry them for about a minute in batches.
When ready to stir fry, heat the wok to medium to high heat. Add in a couple tablespoons of oil followed by minced garlic, spring onions and dried cuttlefish. When fragrant and garlic lightly browned, add in minced pork and stir fry a little to evenly brown the mince, then add in the chilli bean sauce, black vinegar and sugar. Stir fry and break up the mince at the same time for about 1 minute, followed by adding eggplant pieces. Stir fry for a short 10-15 seconds to evenly coat eggplant pieces with sauce mixture and turn the heat off. Transfer to a clay pot. FYI, don’t worry about the pungent smell from the cuttlefish if you are not used to it! Once you add in the sauce, it will merge nicely together giving you a nice fragrance.
For clay pot cooking, simply pour in 1 cup of hot boiling water. Cover with lid and let it simmer over low heat for 10 minutes and it’ll be ready to serve immediately! Garnish with some coriander and have it with some steamy hot white jasmine rice. YUM!