This is a recipe of my own devising but based upon a Chinese classic, Fish-fragrant Aubergines, which is a dish I’ve cooked before, but not blogged about, which is something that I need to remedy. The original is in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain Of Rice. There isn’t any actual fish in the dish. As it says in the book “They call this complex flavour “fish-fragrant” because it draws on the seasonings used in Sichuanese fish cooking, so it is supposed to recall to those who eat it the taste of fish“.
Anyway, I wanted to make something similar but which would make a mid-week evening meal with the addition of some noodles. I decided that firm tofu would be a nice addition and a contrast to the meltingly-soft aubergine.
2 Chinese aubergines (These are the long thin pale purple ones. Normal aubergines are fine too)
sunflower or groundnut oil
1 tablespoon of chilli bean paste
2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons of potato flour mixed with one tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
1 small block of firm tofu, cut into strips
2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
2 red chillies, chopped (seeded if you wish)
1 green pepper, cut into strips
3 chopped spring onion, green and white parts separated
Cut the aubergines lengthways into quarters, then cut these into evenly sized batons. You don’t need to do the salting and draining thing. Modern aubergines don’t really need it.
In a wok, heat four tablespoons of oil over a hot flame. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for three to four minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on paper towels or in a sieve over a bowl.
Return the wok to a medium flame. There should be enough oil in the wok for the next stage. If not, add another tablespoonful. When the wok is hot again, fry the firm tofu strips, remove and leave to drain with the aubergine pieces. Then, add the red chillies, green peppers and white parts of the spring onions. Fry for a minute or two and add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the soy and hoisin sauces and continue to stir-fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to let it burn.
Return the aubergines and tofu to the sauce with some hot water and let it simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb the flavours and warm through. Then stir the potato flour mixture and the vinegar, stirring until it thickens and then serve with noodles and with the green parts of the spring onions on top.
I used some thick fresh white wheat noodles. These are labelled as Shanghai noodles and look very much like Japanese udon noodles. They only take about a minute or two to cook through.