If there is one vegan dish you need to make it’s this one. I promise you, it’s insanely good. The soft, charred, luscious aubergine in that spicy, numbing Szechuan sauce is just ridiculous. Some toasted peanuts sprinkled over the top give a lovely crunch to the dish. I do always find that aubergine is quite rich because it tends to soak up the oil and sauce (which if course is yummy), but you need something fresh on the side, and this smashed cucumber with soy sauce and rice wine vinegar dressing hit the spot!
Szechuan Aubergine with Smashed Cucumber and White Rice
- 1 1/2 lbs Japanese Eggplant (about 4 x 10 inch eggplants)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- bowl of water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2–4 tablespoons peanut oil ( or wok oil)
- 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
- 2 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
- 5–10 dried red chilies
- Szechuan Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns ( or sub regular peppercorns)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin or dry sherry
- 3 tablespoons sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup or alternative
- 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
- To serve
- White rice
- Toasted peanuts
The Prep (± 25 minutes)
Slice the aubergine into 2 cm thick batons, ± 4 cm long.
Place in a big bowl covered with water and stir in 3 teaspoons salt. Cover with a plate and something heavy on top so all the pieces are submerged.
Let stand 20-30 minutes.
In the meantime make the Szechuan Sauce.
Toast the Szechuan peppercorns in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Crush with a mortar and pestle and add to a small bowl.
Add the soy, sauce, chili flakes, sesame oil, rice vinegar, mirin, sugar, and five spice powder in a small bowl and whisk. Set aside
Drain and rinse the eggplant and pat dry with a towel. Toss with the corn starch.
The cooking (± 25 minutes)
Heat 1 -2 tablespoons oil in an extra-large heavy based skillet over medium heat.
Add half the eggplant spreading them out so none are overlapping.
Get all sides nice and golden and make sure the insides are cooked through, take your time, ± 10 minutes per batch.
Set the eggplant aside.
Add a drop of oil to the same skillet, and add the garlic and ginger, sauté for ± 2 minutes.
Add the dried chilis and stir one minute.
Pour the Szechuan sauce into the pan and bring to a simmer for 20 seconds.
Return the eggplant back to the pan, mixing gently so all pieces are coated, ± 1 minute. Add a drop of water if you feel it's a bit too dry.
Now you're ready to serve! Top with some spring onions and toasted, crushed peanuts and serve with rice.