Looking for a healthy Chinese eggplant recipe that's not swimming in grease? The secret is to steam the eggplant instead of deep frying it.
If you know me, you know how much I love eggplant. There just aren't enough opportunities to eat eggplant. When I do, this Eggplant with Garlic Sauce recipe is one of the first I turn to. It can be a one dish meal with the addition of ground pork. For vegetarians, the pork can easily be omitted. Toss in a handful of basil leaves for a bright aroma. Spoon it over a bowl of rice and I’m one happy camper.
One reason why I avoid ordering Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, also known as Yu Xiang Eggplant, at Chinese restaurants is because it's always too oily. The dish is always served in a pool of oil, which I'm certain isn't one of the heart healthy ones. If you've ever made eggplant before you'll notice that it acts like a sponge. Any oil you add during the cooking process is instantly soaked into the eggplant. Most restaurants give it a quick deep fry before it gets stir fried. This keeps eggplant from getting soggy and also speeds up the cooking time. Unfortunately, it also turns this healthy vegetable into a not so healthy grease bomb.
How to Keep Chinese Yu Xiang Eggplant From Becoming Greasy
The method I use in this Chinese Eggplant recipe tastes even more delicious without all that grease. It's also much, much healthier. Instead of deep frying the eggplant first, steam it for 15-20 minutes before stir frying it. It's an extra step but this gives the eggplant the same effect as deep frying. It gets precooked but instead of absorbing a ton of oil, it absorbs water and creates a light, tender and healthy eggplant.
To check for doneness, stick a chopstick into the flesh of the eggplant. If there's no resistance, it's fully cooked.
Since steamed eggplant retains a lot of water, it doesn't have the ability to absorb oil. This means that when stir frying, only a small amount of oil is needed since it doesn't penetrate the eggplant. The end result is a light and healthy Yu Xiang Eggplant dish that isn't saturated in oil and doesn't weigh you down. You can taste the lovely garlic sauce without all that grease.
Do I Need to Use Chinese Eggplant for Eggplant with Garlic Sauce?
No, but it is preferred. Chinese eggplants are ideal since slicing it crosswise or into wedges gives each piece enough skin to hold it together. The shape matters more than the type. Choose long eggplants instead of round ones or small ones instead of big ones. As you cook eggplant, it becomes very soft and tends to break apart. The skin is what holds it together. It would be difficult to achieve the same result with a large round eggplant.
- 2-3 Chinese eggplants, cut on a bias into 1.5" thick pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 stalk scallion, chopped
- ¼ lb ground pork, optional
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- Steam the eggplant for 15-20 minutes until tender but not mushy.
- Mix all the SAUCE ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, prepare the cornstarch slurry by stirring together cornstarch and water. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic. Stir continuously until the garlic begins to change color. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- If you're using ground pork, add it now. Use your spatula to break up the pork as it browns. Turn up the heat if needed.
- Once the pork is browned, add scallions and give it a quick toss.
- Pour in the sauce and give it a good mix. Turn the heat to high and allow it to come to a boil.
- Add the steamed eggplant. Give it a toss to completely coat in sauce while being careful not to break up the eggplant.
- Allow it to simmer for about a minute, stirring occasionally. If the liquid in your sauce evaporates too much, add a bit of water, a tablespoon at a time.
- Turn the heat down to medium-high and thicken the sauce with cornstarch slurry. The cornstarch would've settled to the bottom by now. Give it a good stir until its thoroughly mixed and there are no lumps. Stir half of the slurry into the sauce and let it return to a boil. Repeat until you reach your desired consistency.