Fuchsia Dunlop’s fish-fragrant aubergines

As promised in another post, here is the recipe for fish-fragrant aubergines as published in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain Of Rice. It is an excellent recipe and I urge anyone who likes Chinese food to give it a try.

Here is the recipe as published in the book.

600g aubergines
Salt
Cooking oil, for deep-frying (400ml will do if you are using a round-bottomed wok)
1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuanese chilli bean paste, or Sichuan pickled chilli paste, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
150ml chicken stock
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon potato flour mixed with one tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons finely sliced spring onion greens
Cut the aubergines lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.

In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180˚C. 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.

Drain the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir-fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).

Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavors. Then stir the potato flour mixture, pour it over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.

In Ms Dunlop’s own words;

This dish, almost more than any other, expresses for me the gorgeous layering of flavours that is the signature of Sichuanese cooking. Pickled chillies, either on their own or with fermented broad beans in the famous Sichuan chilli bean sauce, give the dish its warmth and lustre; garlic, ginger and spring onions add a luxurious kick of flavour and a hint of sweet and sour serves to harmonise all the other tastes.

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