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This delicious Asian eggplant is a quick and easy vegetarian recipe. It's made with long and slender Chinese eggplant that is braised and then cooked in a rich and savory ginger garlic sauce. Ready in just 20 minutes.
This Asian eggplant recipe braises the eggplant with some Asian flavors for a few minutes before being coated in an easy-to-make sweet and spicy sauce. It's a simple side dish that has tons of flavor.
Eggplant can be one of those vegetables that you either love or you just aren't sure what to do with it. Well, this Asian eggplant recipe will help you turn the corner and become an official eggplant fan. It also makes a perfect vegetarian side dish for your meal!
Plus, with just five minutes of prep time and fifteen minutes of cooking time, you're looking at a beautiful dish in no time.
Is this an authentic Chinese eggplant recipe?
This is an eggplant recipe that uses Asian eggplants and Asian flavors. The biggest difference between our recipe and an authentic Chinese eggplant recipe is in the way we prepare the eggplant. In a traditional recipe, the eggplant is salted or brined then pan-fried until crispy. Then it's simmered in the sauce.
Salting or brining the eggplant allows it to be pan-fried without soaking up a ton of oil, but it also takes time. Since we typically don't have a lot of time to make dinner, we skip this step and the step of frying the eggplant. Instead, we braise the eggplant right in the sauce. We can't claim that our method is authentic, but we can assure you that this method saves time and makes delicious eggplant!
- Asian eggplant: These beautiful purple vegetables are the centerpiece of this dish. You'll need three eggplants for this recipe, however, if you can't find Asian eggplant you can use the American, Globe, variety.
- Cooking oil and toasted sesame oil: eggplants are naturally very absorbent, so they normally soak up oils. However, using the braising technique in this recipe, the oil only coats the eggplants and sucks up the stock instead. The toasted sesame oil will give a delicious nutty flavor to the dish.
- Onion, ginger, and garlic: this trio will set the savory tone for this dish and have your kitchen smelling incredible! Ginger also gives a little zing that's familiar in Asian recipes.
- Sichuan pepper: ground Sichuan pepper will add a hint of lemon (and not add spicy or heat, unlike black pepper or dried red chilies).
- Stock: This will be used to braise the sliced eggplant and help infuse the eggplant with extra flavor. You can use vegetable or chicken stock.
- Soy sauce: Adding soy sauce will give a rich, salty profile to the eggplant. You can use tamari or gluten-free if needed.
- Garlic chili sauce: This will add some heat to the Asian eggplant. Garlic chili sauce is tangy and spicy but if you don't have any on hand you can use Sriracha, chili paste or chili-garlic paste. You can also choose to omit this ingredient, for a mild version of this recipe.
- Chinkiang vinegar: this is a rice-based, black vinegar. You can easily substitute rice vinegar or red wine vinegar.
- Honey: To add some sweetness to the dish, honey balances some of the other intense flavors that come with this recipe.
- Cornstarch: In a small bowl, you'll mix together the sauce which includes cornstarch. In this instance, cornstarch is used to thicken the mixture.
- Optional to garnish: Chopped cilantro, green onion (scallions), toasted sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes.
How to braise Asian eggplant
In this recipe, the Asian eggplant is braised in some stock with ginger, garlic, and Sichuan pepper. Braising is really just a fancy word for cooking in liquid. Typically, braise is a term allocated to meat, but you can braise veggies, too.
Braising the eggplant cuts down on the amount of fat you need. Eggplant sucks up fat like nobody's business, so braising is a great way to avoid this and still keep all the taste. Win win!
To braise the eggplant, heat the cooking oil and sesame oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add the eggplant, ginger, garlic, and Sichuan pepper and stir together. Pour ¾ cup of the stock over the top and cover the pan. Let the eggplant braise for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
What's the difference between Asian eggplant and American eggplant?
Asian eggplants include Chinese, Japanese, and Thai varieties. Thai eggplants are small and fairly round.
In this recipe, we use either Chinese eggplant or Japanese eggplant. Both are long and slender and less bitter than globe eggplants. Chinese eggplants are a light purple color while Japanese eggplants are dark purple. Either variety works well in this recipe.
Asian eggplants have fewer seeds than American or globe eggplants and are therefore less bitter. The Asian varieties are also the best option for quick cooking, given their slender shape. The globe eggplant is meatier and has more seeds and so doesn't lend itself as well to a quick cook.
What is Sichuan pepper?
If you're looking at the ingredients and wondering what Sichuan pepper is, where you can buy it, and what the heck you can sub for it because you don't feel like running all over town to look for it, here's the thing:
Sichuan pepper is commonly used in the Sichuan province in China – surprise, surprise! Although it is also used in many other places such as Nepal, Bhutan, and India. Despite its name, it is not similar to chilies or black pepper.
Sichuan pepper has a slightly lemony taste and (if you eat a lot of it) will give you a funny, tingling, buzzing sort of feeling in your mouth.
You can buy Sichuan pepper at Asian markets or here online. While there's no real substitute for Sichuan peppers, and you could simply leave them out of the recipe, you can also substitute half black pepper with half lemon zest or sumac. It won't be quite the same, but it will still be very good.
What to serve with Asian eggplant?
This braised eggplant recipe is a wonderful side dish, but let's build out an entire menu to serve with it! Here are some perfect pairs:
- Garlic ginger chicken
- Slow-baked Asian salmon
- Asian stir-fry noodles
- Perfect basmati rice
- Cauliflower fried rice
- Matcha ice cream
Whoever you're serving for dinner will leave the table super satisfied!
Can I use a globe eggplant instead?
Asian eggplant (Chinese or Japanese) is best for this recipe. However, you can use globe eggplant if that is what is available at your grocery store.
What is Chinkiang vinegar?
Chinkiang vinegar, also known as Chinese black vinegar, has a sweet-sour taste. You can find it in Asian markets, well-stocked grocery stores, or online. You can substitute a tablespoon of rice vinegar or red wine vinegar if needed.
Is this Asian eggplant recipe spicy?
No, it's savory, but not spicy.
How do I store the leftovers?
Store any leftovers in an airtight container with a lid.
How long do leftovers last?
You can keep braised Chinese eggplant in a sealed container in the fridge for five days.
- 1 tablespoon EACH: cooking oil and toasted sesame oil
- 1 medium onion (sliced)
- 3 long eggplants (quartered and cut into 3-inch pieces)
- 1 tablespoon ginger (minced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
- 1 cup stock (divided)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)
- 1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar (can sub rice vinegar or red wine vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds (to serve)
- Heat the cooking oil and sesame oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add the eggplant, ginger, garlic, and Sichuan pepper and stir together. Pour ¾ cup of the stock over the top and cover the pan. Let the eggplant braise for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times.1 tablespoon EACH: cooking oil and toasted sesame oil, 1 medium onion, 3 long eggplants, 1 tablespoon ginger, 3 cloves garlic, ½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper, 1 cup stock
- Make the sauce in a small bowl. Mix the remaining ¼ cup of stock with the soy sauce, garlic chili sauce, vinegar, honey, and cornstarch.2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Once the eggplant is soft, pour the sauce over the top and mix well. Let the sauce cook and thicken for 1 minute.
- Remove the eggplant from the heat, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and sesame seeds and serve immediately.Chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.