Not many vegetables are purple! Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce is a popular signature dish in China. It is also a quite common dish for the Chinese dinner table and a dish everyone loves! When you go to a Chinese restaurant, this dish is always the top one on the list that everyone will order.
Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce（鱼香茄子） is a tricky dish, sometimes people cannot bring the full flavor out when cooking it. When cooked right, they are the stars of the show, eggplants are soft, tender, and immensely satisfying!
Known as auberges in some places, this colorful veggie is actually a fruit, and it’s closely related to tomatoes. Still, the eggplant’s earthy and starchy flavor makes me think of savory dishes, and by savory, I mean garlicky.
Eggplants can become tasty side dishes and wholesome main courses. Here is a recipe for eggplant in homemade garlic sauce. The result will make you fall back in love with the purple veggie.
What you need
For this recipe, you need a few eggplants. There are Chinese eggplants and Western eggplants out there (see picture below). The Chinese eggplants appear smaller, longer, brighter in purple color and have fewer seeds inside than the American eggplants. Did you know China produces 65% of the world’s eggplants? It’s only natural to season them with a Chinese-inspired garlic sauce.
For the sauce, we are using two types of soy sauce, regular and dark soy sauce, which produce a thicker and sweeter style of soy sauce that gives body and richness to the dish.
We are also adding sugar and cornstarch as an all-natural thickener. And, of course, the key ingredient — garlic. The result is a sticky sauce with an intense flavor that elevates the eggplant’s personality in a very Chinese way. You will love it.
The recipe below results from my experimentation, based on my favorite Chinese eggplant dishes. There’s still room for creativity, though, so tweak it to your liking and make it your own. What’s guaranteed is that this eggplant recipe is crowd-pleasing delicious. Even your friends and family that are not all that into the earthy veggie will love it!
Pre-cook: should I Steam first, soak in saltwater first, or deep fry first?
Lots of people suggested soaking eggplants in the saltwater first before cooking. Previously, I tested the eggplants soaking in the saltwater for 30 minutes and squeezing out the extra liquid method, but somehow, I don’t see too much difference in the outcome.
The authentic way is to deep fry the eggplant first and then cook it the second time. I do not like my food to be too greasy, for health considerations, I updated the deep fry procedure with steaming.
Another common way to avoid deep frying is to boil, it works too.
Here, I am using steam first in this recipe.
Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (鱼香茄子）
For Stir Fry:
- 4 small Chinese Eggplants
- 6 cloves of Garlic, chopped (very last)
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon red chili (for garnish)
- green onions (for garnish)
- Wash the eggplants (leave the skin on) and roll cut into small chunks.
- Steam the eggplants until they are mushy, about15 minutes on high heat.
- Meantime, make the sauce: add the sauce ingredients listed above to a large mixing bowl until the corn starch is dissolved, mix well.
- Add the cooking oil into the wok and heat at medium heat, add ginger, then put the steamed eggplants in, and stir frequently until the eggplants are golden brown, about 1 minute. Add garlic last and stir very quickly until fragrant.
- Add the pre-mixed sauce over the eggplants and let it simmer for about 2 minutes and turn off the heat once the sauce thickens.
- Put green onions and red chili for garnish.(optional)
- Serve hot with steamed rice, enjoy!