My fascination with Chinese crispy eggplant goes way back to when I lived in Portland, Oregon. I was with a large group of friends at a restaurant called Fu Jin. One person did all the ordering and one dish that arrived at the table was Crispy Eggplant. Sounds simple enough, but it turned out to be one of the most memorable dishes I’ve ever eaten. In a world where eggplant usually gets pureed and turned into things like Baba Ganoush and Baingan Bhartha, and then to be presented with this – crisp and saucy all at once – was truly a revelation. Sadly, twelve years later I have not been back to that restaurant, or even had the same dish elsewhere that was quite as good. Occasionally I have tried to recreate it on my own, as I did the other day. It is super easy, at least if you have a deep-fryer going. Although it doesn’t quite live up to my first experience, it is still a tasty dish. And maybe I’ll visit Fu Jin next month on my vacation!
Crispy Eggplant (serves 4 as a side dish)
3 japanese eggplants
cornstarch for dredging
oil for deep-frying
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Begin heating the oil in the fryer. Slice the eggplant diagonally into 1/4-inch slices. Toss with cornstarch and shake off the excess. Begin frying the eggplant when the oil is hot. Fry in batches for 5-6 minutes, until very crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Continue until all the eggplant is cooked.
Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients (except the green onion) to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for 2 minutes. When all the eggplant is cooked, mix it with the sauce and green onion and serve immediately.