This spicy vegetable dish heroes the humble eggplant… and boy, does it pack a punch! It leaves your mouth tingling from the Sichuan peppercorns (the numbing part) and your brow a little dampened by chilli-induced sweat (the hot part!). Try it served as is with steamed rice, or as part of a Chinese banquet-style spread.
1kg (2 lb 3 oz) Japanese eggplants (about 8), trimmed
1 tbsp green Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 tablespoons doubanjiang*
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed, finely sliced on the diagonal
steamed rice, to serve
Use a julienne peeler or regular peeler to remove most of the skin from the eggplant, leaving a little to help hold the eggplant together as it softens. Quarter each eggplant lengthways, then cut each piece in half widthways so each eggplant is cut into 8 even pieces. Place the eggplant in a large steamer then cook, covered, over boiling water for 25 minutes or until very tender. Use a spatula to carefully transfer the softened eggplant to a large bowl.
While the eggplant is steaming, make your spicy sauce. Lightly crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. Heat the vegetable oil and chilli oil in a wok or pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the doubanjiang and cook, stirring, for another 1-2 minutes. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and ground peppercorns and stir to combine well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 1 minute to allow flavours to combine and sugar to dissolve.
Pour the mixture over the eggplant in the bowl and gently toss to lightly coat the eggplant, taking care as the eggplant is very tender. Transfer to a serving plate, including any of the spicy chilli oil sauce. Scatter over the spring onion and serve with steamed rice.
– Doubanjiang is a Chinese fermented broad bean and chilli paste. It can be found at an Asian grocer or ordered online.