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Fish-Fragrant Eggplants with Chicken

Fish-Fragrant Eggplants with ChickenA favorite dish in one of my favorite Chinese Restaurants in Toronto (Asian Legend) is the archtypically Sichuanese "Fish-Fragrant Eggplants" (yuxiang qiezi). Ever since getting my hands on Fuchsia Dunlop's, Land of Plenty, I've meant to give it a try. The "Fish-Fragrant" refers to a standard style of sauces traditionally used for cooking fish that has long been adapted to other ingredients (e.g., Chicken, Pork, Beancurd). Just as I was gathering the materials to do the dish, wifey asked if I wanted some meat for dinner as well (some chicken was, at that time, defrosting in the fridge), and if so, how would I like it done? I decided that rather than do two dishes, I would simply incorporate the chicken into the eggplant dish, modifying some of the proportions of the ingredients, and changing a bit of the method to suit my own style (and convenience). The results were, to say the least, decent. Wifey and I polished the whole dish off with rice for dinner. The only drawback is the deep-frying, which is a real chore. But I guess it's no pain (from the oil splattering about), no gain.

(Recipe modified from Fuchsia Dunlop)

Ingredients and basic preparation:

- 1+ lb Eggplant, halved lengthwise, then crosswish, then into strips about 1/2" thick (for the non-Asian variety, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and leave for 30min to draw out some of the moisture); if using Brinjal, just half lengthwise and cut into 3" sections (no need to salt).
- Oil for deepfrying (e.g., peanut oil)
- 1/2 lb Chicken, cut into small pieces, marinate with 1/2 tsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp water, 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp Sichuanese chili bean paste (the real stuff: Pixian Douban; unfortunately, I don't have that, so using a Taiwanese brand...)
- 1 tsp Pickled chili paste (according to Dunlop, Sambal Oelek does just fine; since I have neither, I am using a Korean chili paste for now instead)
- 1 tbsp finely chopped Ginger
- 1 tbsp finely chopped Garlic
- 2/3 cup Chicken stock
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
- 2 tsp Cornstarch mixed with 1+ tbsp Cold water
- 2 tsp Black Vinegar (Chinkiang brand where available)
- 4 Scallions, green parts only, sliced into fine rings
- 1 tsp Sesame oil


1. Deep-fry the eggplants for about 3-4 min (at 350-400°F / 175-200°C), until slightly golden on the outside; remove and drain on paper towels.
2. Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in wok/pan; fry ginger and garlic for 30 seconds; add the bean paste and chili paste and fry for another 30 seconds; be careful not to burn the sauce (remove from heat if necessary); add the chicken and fry for a minute or two.
3. Add stock, sugar, soysauce and mix well.
4. Add eggplants and simmer for a few minutes; add the cornstarch mixture and stir to thicken the sauce; stir in the vinegar and scallions and leave for a few seconds; remove from heat; stir in sesame oil, serve.