Saturday, August 06, 2022

Omnivore's Cookbook: Mapo Eggplant

Back in the spring, I decided that it would be a good idea to plant a Japanese eggplant in my raised garden bed.  Between that plant, the okra, and the poblano pepper, they have choked everything else out.  Thank goodness they're also fruiting prolifically.  But that means I have a ton of eggplants that need to be eaten.  Thank goodness for delicious dishes like this one.  And honestly, not a ton of work.

Note: I opted to use ground bean paste (not spicy) instead of doubanjiang (spicy).  I still put the full amount of chili oil in the mixture, and it came out with a nice burn that doesn't peel the skin off your tongue.  If you love spicy, I would recommend using the spicy paste and as much chili oil as you can handle.  I also fried the eggplant pieces in some peanut oil before I started.  This was a recommendation from the blog author to keep the eggplant piece from falling apart, but is definitely not required.

Mapo Eggplant
Adapted from Omnivore's Cookbook blog

1 pound Chinese/Japanese eggplants, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1 pound ground pork
1½ to 2 tablespoons ground bean paste or doubanjiang
4 green onions, sliced (reserve some of the green part for garnish)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece ginger, minced
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon chili oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Add the oil and Sichuan peppercorns to a large skillet and cook over medium heat. Let the peppercorns cook until they are fragrant and turn brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the peppercorns using a spatula without removing the oil, and transfer them into a small bowl.

Add the ground pork and spread it across the pan. Top with the ground bean paste or doubanjiang. Let the pork cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the bottom turns golden. Stir with the paste and cook until the pork is almost cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the green onions, ginger, and garlic. Continue cooking for another 30 seconds to a minute to release the fragrance.  Pour in the Shaoxing wine. Immediately use your spatula to scrape off any browned bits from the pan.

Add the eggplant, stock, chili oil, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir gently to incorporate everything. Bring to a boil, then cover. Simmer over medium-low heat until the eggplant is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Carefully taste one piece of eggplant to make sure it reaches your desired texture. Let cook a bit longer if needed.

Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and stir until fully dissolved. Drizzle over the sauce and turn the heat back to medium. Stir constantly and cook until the sauce has thickened. Transfer everything to a serving plate. Garnish with the reserved green onion and fried Sichuan pepper.

Makes 4 servings

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