Author: Sara Jo, via “Sichuan Cookery” by Fuchsia Dunlop
Recipe type: Entree
One of my FAVORITE Chinese recipes that can use SQUASH or EGGPLANT. Don’t let the name fool you; it’s only called “fish-fragrant” because the sauce is the same flavorful base commonly used on fish in the Sichuan province of China. Enjoy!
- 700 g squash or eggplant
- groundnut or corn oil for deep-frying
- 1½ Tablespoons chili bean paste, Sichuanese preferred but not required
- 3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
- 3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 150 ml chicken stock mixed with hot water (approx. 1 Tblspn stock, ¾ cups hot water)
- 1½ teaspoons white sugar
- ½ teaspoon light soy sauce
- ¾ teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 1 Tablespoon cold water
- 1½ teaspoons Chinkiang or Chinese black vinegar, or any black vinegar
- 4 scallions, green parts only, sliced into fine rings
- 1 teaspoon seasame oil (optional)
- Cut squash or eggplant into even pieces, no bigger than 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Sprinkle with 1½ teaspoons of salt and leave for at least 30 minutes to draw out the bitter juices.
- In your wok or sauce pan, heat oil for deep-frying till the oil is just beginning to smoke (~180-200 degrees Celsius, 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit). Add the squash in batches and deep-fry for ~3-4 minutes until slightly golden and soft and buttery on the inside. SEE NOTE BELOW!
- Remove and drain on paper bags or paper towels.
- Drain off the deep-frying oil, rinse the pan if necessary, and then return to high heat with 2-3 Tablespoons of oil.
- Add the chili bean past and stir-fry for about 20 seconds until the oil is red and fragrant; then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir-fry for another 20-30 seconds until they are fragrant. Take care not to burn the flavorings – remove the pan from the heat for a few seconds or turn down the heat if needed.
- Add the stock, sugar, and soy sauce and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necesary.
- Add the fried squash/eggplant to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a few minutes to absorb some of the flavors. Then sprinkle the potato mixture over the squash/eggplant and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Next, stir in the vinegar and scallions and leave for a few seconds until the onions have lost their rawness.
- Finally, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the sesame oil (optional) and serve.
Cooking times for the different squash and eggplants can vary quite a bit. I’ve seen everything from 2-3 minutes for pattypan squash and 6-7 for eggplant. Just keep an eye on it and you’ll be fine. This dish pairs like it a dream with chicken, other veggies, and steak. I usually serve it over a bed of rice, but it can stand on it’s own.