Eggplant is my favorite vegetable- one that I think is greatly under-appreciated. In this dish I use a simple but powerful technique I learned from a chef in Beijing that helps minimize the amount of oil needed for cooking since eggplant typically acts like a sponge. Sprinkling generous amounts of salt on the chopped eggplant pieces before cooking draws out its natural water, reducing the oil that will be absorbed during cooking. Unlike most Asian restaurants, I never deep-fry my eggplant since the combination of using this technique and adding little amounts of water results in a fabulous quick-braising and a much healthier dish.
3 to 4 large Chinese eggplants (deep purple color, long and thin)
Salt for sprinkling
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Sambal Oelek chili sauce (optional)
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Chop the eggplants into 3 inch-long sticks; place in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt liberally and toss the eggplant to mix thoroughly; allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.
In a wok, heat the oil on high heat. Add the eggplants (take care as slight splattering may occur); stir-fry thoroughly. The oil will be completely absorbed by the eggplant and it will seem like you’re dry stir-frying but after 2 to 3 minutes, the eggplant will soften on its own.
Add the soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, water and chili sauce tossing together, then lower the heat to medium. Continue to gently fold the eggplants over so they don’t break but mix well for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and toss in the garlic; stir quickly and serve with cilantro to garnish.