Tuesday, January 13, 2015

肉末茄子 Sweet Crispy Eggplant and Pork

If you keep walking past that bright purple vegetable in the Asian section of your grocery store why not pick it up next time you are out and give this recipe a try. It is absolutely delish. Your kids will have no clue they are getting a serving of vegetables. This tastes a little like chunky french fries in a sticky sweet sauce tossed with delicious bits of caramelized ginger, garlic and crispy pork. I love to add a garnish of fresh green onion and cilantro to compliment the sweet ginger sauce and step the dish up to "oh my Gosh!". My dish turned out a little too crispy due to me snapping at least 100 photos during the cooking process, and it was still absolutely to die for. 

This was not an easy dish to pin down. It has taken me almost a full year of trial and error. So you could say I am quite excited to be posting this recipe today and a bit relieved! I am very diligent about going to all the hoops before I post a recipe because I want you to be pleased with the results. To have your effort and money spent in making the dish be worth it. I can finally post this recipe with confidence that you are going to feel like you are eating at a restaurant in Beijing when you try this. Thank you so much for my dear friend that requested I post a recipe for eggplant and pork. We both, now have a delicious way to put eggplant into our dinner rotations. 

This recipe as written produces restaurant style results, While delicious, restaurant style is not always the healthiest way to eat and often takes more effort than the average home cook feels up to after a long day of work. My research has come up with three ways you can lighten and simplify this dish. One is too microwave the eggplant. This is the best method for keeping the pretty purple hue. Just cut then brush the skin with oil (important) and it will keep it's color. Another way is to steam until soft then pull them apart into strips with your fingers like you would string cheese. The third method is to cut then pan fry with just a little oil. Of course these methods will not give you that scrumptious crispy deep fried texture you may have had at restaurants but it is still quite tasty.

Choose the long skinny eggplants. The skinnier the better. Skinnier is less porous and therefore adsorbs less oil, I have another trick I will teach you that also reduces the amount of oil the eggplant soaks up. Eggplant is notorious for sucking up any liquid in sight. Great if that liquid is flavorful but not so desirable when it is greasy!!!

1 lb. Chinese eggplant (2 large)
1/3 cup cornstarch (optional: used if you are deep frying the eggplant)
2 scallions julienned (especially the white part!!!)
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
chili paste or minced chilies to taste (optional)
1/4 lb. ground pork
1/2 Tbsp. white sesame seeds.

Fry Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice wine
1/3 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water

Optional Garish
toasted sesame seeds
juliened green onions
Thai Basil Leaves

Adapted from food.lanzhou.cn/system/2012/11/16/010279585.shtml

These are Chinese eggplant, These are the ones you will want to buy. But if all you can find are the pear shaped eggplant then those can be used as well so don't worry.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.

Make slices on an angle.

Turn the eggplant each time you cut continuing to cut at an angle.


You will end up with shapes like you see here. You can also cut into french fries if you prefer.


Sprinkle liberally with salt. Then cover with water and put pressure on the eggplant pieces to help them absorb water. Because they absorb water in this step they will absorb less oil in the deep frying process.

Drain the eggplants well then toss with 1/3 cup cornstarch until all pieces are coated. Because of little drops of water remaining on the eggplant the starch will clump. This is wonderful for deep frying. Texture is good, very good.

Preheat oil over medium high heat til the temperature reaches 375 F. Then add the eggplant and deep fry 2-3 minutes.

You can check if it is done but lightly squeezing a piece. It will have a crispy exterior and soft inside.

Slice the garlic, Thinly slice the ginger then julienne and cut the green onion or leek into thin strips 1-2 inches long. Have sichuan peppercorns and sichuan chilis handy. If you don't have these you can omit them.

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil, add the sichuan peppercorns and chilis and stir-fry lightly then remove. Careful the chilis do not burn. Now you add the pork. Once the pork has separated into clumps add the ginger and stir-fry 30-60 seconds.

 Add in the garlic then stir-fry another 30-60 seconds.

Now you can add the fry sauce ingredients. Cook one minute or until it starts to thicken. Sugar is the thickening agent in this sauce (think about how syrup is made). You want to simmer the sauce long enough for the magic to happen but keep a close eye on it as with making anything caramelized, the sugar will burn if overcooked.

Through in the deep fried eggplant, sesame seeds and green onion or leek. You can also add Thai basil here for a change up in flavor.

Toss til the eggplant is well coated and remove to a serving plate.

Garnish with green onion and cilantro if desired. This is really tasty over a bowl of white rice.


  1. This turned out very well for me. The only thing I noticed in this recipe was that, even though it calls for 1/2 cup cornstarch, only 1/3 cup is referenced in the directions. And how do you thicken the fry sauce? I used a cornstarch slurry, so I'm wondering if that's where the remaining 1/6 cup is supposed to be used.

    1. Kevin, thanks for pointing that out! I have been working on this recipe for a while, tweaking it bit by bit. I must have tweaked the cornstarch in one place, but not the other, lol. I will fix that pronto. I've tried many variations, and by far I prefer no cornstarch thickener in the sauce. Just cook it long enough that the sugar does the thickening - think syrup.

      I really enjoy all your comments, glad it turned out well for you!