I had been plotting and planning on what to do with eggplant since we planted it earlier this spring. I wanted to make incredible eggplant parmesan… thin slices of eggplant, breaded, pan fried, topped with homemade marinara sauce, sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano.
I managed to throw a monkeywrench in my own plans months earlier. Picture it… North Miami Beach, Florida the winter of 2008, we stopped into Bamboo Garden Chinese Restaurant for lunch. (Yes! I have been watching the Golden Girls marathon on WE Network.) This is one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in south Florida. I ordered the Garlic Eggplant as this is the only place in south Florida that makes this dish and makes it wonderfully… tender sweet Asian eggplant stir-fried with water chestnuts, red bell peppers, and green onions in a garlicky, spicy, and slightly sweet Hoisin or Oyster Sauce*. This dish is perfect… melting eggplant, crispy water chestnuts, crunchy red bell peppers, piquant green onions, and the silky sauce.
I offer some of the Garlic Eggplant to the SFW as she almost always orders Honey Garlic Chicken at every Chinese restaurant. She refuses to try the eggplant. I persist… because while she likes ordering the same boring little battered and fried pieces of chicken tossed in honey sauce, I want her to try something different – a vegetable, well really a fruit since botanically speaking eggplant is actually a berry. Months before she refused to try it; however, that winter day in 2008, she said yes. While she fell in love with the flavors, I had unknowingly sabotaged myself.
Now every time there is a mention of eggplant in the house, a discussion on Hoisin sauce follows soon after. Seeing as planting eggplant was not my initial idea, I conceded…. but wait until the next harvest.
My Recipe: GARLICKY EGGPLANT IN HOISIN SAUCE
2 # eggplant, medium size, Asian eggplant works excellent in this recipe
4 – 6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 t fresh ginger, grated very finely
¼ c Hoisin Sauce
⅛ c water
2 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 T sesame oil
1 t red pepper flakes
¼ t ground white pepper (optional)
⅛ c vegetable oil
sesame seeds, for garnish
Wash eggplant and cut lengthwise into for sections; cut each section on the bias about ½ “ in thickness; set aside
Combine the following: grated ginger, Hoisin sauce, water, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and ground white pepper, if using; mix well; set aside
Stir-frying is a quick process. Make sure to have everything prepped and ready to go before you drop the first ingredient into the pan.
Heat a wok of large sauté pan with curved sides over high heat; add ½ amount of vegetable oil; stir-fry half of the eggplant pieces until lightly brown on all sides; remove with a slotted spoon and reserve before cooking the remaining eggplant using the remaining vegetable oil
After all eggplant is brown, remove all but 1 T of vegetable oil from pan; add sliced garlic and stir-fry until golden brown and fragrant; stirring constantly to avoid burning the garlic; about 2 – 3 minutes
If the garlic burns, throw the garlic out, wash the pan, and start again with fresh garlic and oil
After the garlic is lightly browned, add the sauce mixture to the hot pan stirring continuously; add the browned eggplant and cook for about 6 minutes until eggplant is well coated and sauce thickens
Remove from heat; serve immediately garnished with sesame seeds.
I served this version of garlicky eggplant as a part of a meal of small Asian inspired plates including Chicken with Apricots, Chinese Long Beans, and steamed brown Basmati rice. If I were serving it alone with just steamed brown rice, I would include red bell pepper and scallions during the garlic browning stage and back to the pan with the sauce. These additions round out the dish and makes it more substantial on it’s own.
*For a completely vegetarian dish, use only Hoisin sauce which typically does not contain any animal products.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!