Got some Japanese eggplant as an add-on to my weekly CSA box because I really wanted to try Fuchsia Dunlop's take on Fish Fragrant Sichuan Eggplant, which has popped up on my radar a few times recently . . .
About 3 pounds, washed and trimmed. This is approximately double what the recipe calls for but I made it all because, well, I knew my family would likely snarf it all down.
Baton'd and Salted
Recipe says to let this sit for at least 30 minutes. I left it for a few hours, occasionally stopping by to drain the moisture that the salt drew out.
After the salting, I rinsed the batons and let them dry while I prepped the rest of the mise en place.
Normally, when I try a recipe for the first time, I follow it exactly. But based on my previous experiences with Dunlop recipes, I decided to follow my instincts and up the amounts of certain key ingredients like the garlic, the chili bean paste and the ginger (even beyond what the doubling would call for). Needless to say, the Sukenari ZDP 189 Damascus Gyuto (210 mm) made quick work of the ginger.
Mise En Place
Clockwise from the bottom: garlic, chili bean paste, vinegar, scallions, soy sauce, corn starch (I did not have any potato starch (water to be added later)) and ginger. Not shown here are granulated sugar and stock.
I fried these in peanut oil, about 1/3 at a time. Recipe calls for 390°F oil but adding a pound of eggplant all at once dropped that temperature by about 150° almost immediately. The cooking may have benefited from more, smaller batches. In the end, I achieved a fairly light and crispy end result but it took longer and required more oil than it otherwise might have.
Once the all eggplant was fried and removed to drain, 3 T of the frying oil is retained and the mise goes into the wok in fairly rapid succession . . . so rapid that I really couldn't stop to take any pictures. Once it comes together in a boil, the eggplant gets added back, followed by the cornstarch slurry (or potato starch, if you have it), the vinegar and most of the scallions. The remaining scallions are used for garnish, as you can see below.
Not a bad first attempt. I really liked the dish. Next time, I'd do a few things differently, mainly make a smaller batch so that frying it would need no more than 2 rounds. I'm also going to buy some potato starch, since I'm finding more and more recipes that call for it over corn starch. Lastly, even though I did not up the amount vinegar this time, I plan on using less next time. Flavorwise, it's a very dominant ingredient and a little goes a long way.