Updated: Apr 28, 2020
The actual name for this dish in Sichuan cuisine oddly translates to “Fish-Fragrant” Eggplant. Confusing, as this dish has no fish anywhere in it. You see, in Sichuan cuisine, there are 23 complex flavours. These range from red-oil flavour, hot and sour flavour, lychee flavour, to strange flavour, and many others. Fish-Fragrant is one of the most celebrated.
1 1/2 lbs Japanese Eggplant (about 4 x 10-inch eggplants)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
2 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
5–10 dried red chillies
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic chilli paste ( or sub 1 teaspoon chilli flakes)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice
Garnish with scallions and roasted peanuts or this Peanut Chili crunch
Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch thick half-moons or into bite-sized pieces ( see photos). Place in a big bowl covered with water and stir in 2 teaspoons salt. Cover with a plate and let stand 15 minutes.
In the meantime, chop the garlic and ginger and make the Szechuan Sauce.
To make the Szechuan Sauce: Toast the Szechuan peppercorns in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Crush. Place these along with the remaining ingredients ( soy, chilli paste, sesame oil, rice vinegar, Chinese cooking wine, sugar, and five spice) in a small bowl and whisk. Set by the stove.
Drain the eggplant and pat dry with a towel. Toss with the corn starch.
Working in 2 batches, heat 1 -2 tablespoons oil in an extra-large skillet over medium heat. Add half the eggplant spreading them out. You want to get both sides nice and golden, and the insides cooked through -so take your time here and don't rush this step. Let one side brown then turn them over using tongs. This will take about 10 minutes for each batch. ( If in a hurry sometimes I’ll use 2 pans.) Set the eggplant aside.
Add 1 more tablespoon oil to the skillet, and over medium heat, add the garlic and ginger, stirring for 2 minutes. Turn the fan on, add the dried chilis and stir one minute. Pour the Szechuan sauce into the pan and bring to a simmer for 20 seconds. Add the eggplant back into the skillet, tossing gently for about 1 minute. If it seems dry add a tablespoon of water to loosen.
Place in a serving dish and top with scallions and optional peanuts.