Szechwan Eggplant

I worked at an incredible Chinese restaurant, The China Gourmet in Cincinnati, for ten years through my high school and college years.  One of my favorite dishes there, hands-down, was the Szechwan/Szechuan eggplant.  The eggplant was deep-fried until tender, then stir-fried in a rich, dark, complex, slightly sweet and spicy Szechuan sauce.  I would eat this dish at least once a week, if not more.  To be honest, it's been eons since I have last had it.  Probably long before I was diagnosed with Celiac... So at least ten years.  I still remember how is smells, looks, taste, and feels (texture).  I decided just to go for it and try to make it.  I got lucky.  It is as close as a match I as remember.  Even better, it's pan-fried and gluten-free, and relatively easy to make.

1 large eggplant
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 bundle green onions
1/3 cup of GF soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons chili sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (Panda MSG-free is GF, optional)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch segment fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cracked Szechuan peppercorns (optional, can find at Penzeys)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Wash and dry the eggplant, cut into very thick squared strips lengthwise.  Place in colander, sprinkle with salt, toss, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes (with something underneath to catch any draining water.  This will remove any bitterness, excess water, and allow to cook better and faster.  Rinse the eggplant well with fresh water to remove excess water and shake out well.  In a wok or large skillet, warm the oil over medium heat.  Add the eggplant into the wok the same orientation to cook evenly.  Cook for minimum 5 minutes before turning over.  In the meantime, chop the green onions and put aside to add in.  In a cup or bowl, make the Szechuan sauce with the tamari, sugar, vinegar, chili sauce, oyster sauce (adds richness), garlic, ginger, and pepper - taste and adjust according to your preference.  In another cup, make up the cornstarch:water slurry.

Once the eggplant seems mostly tender, add in the Szechuan sauce made above and allow to cook down for a couple of minutes.  Add in the green onions, reserving a little bit for garnish.  Toss the eggplant carefully not to break it.  Add in the cornstarch slurry until the sauce is just right, i.e., good amount of liquid, yet tightened up.  Allow to cook for an additional couple of minutes.  Remove from the heat, add in the sesame oil and stir well.  Serve immediately with your choice of rice.  Makes about 2-3 servings.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Summer Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  The summer produce we're focusing on here is eggplant.  On twitter, we're tagging #SummerFest. Here are other delicious eggplant recipes to try out: 


Denise said…
Another great entree recipe. Your recipe looks so hearty and filling, and I like the spicy flavor of Szechuan peppercorns.