Chinese eggplant (鱼香茄子) is a dish that’s packed with flavor in every bite! It’s made with perfectly cooked Asian eggplant that’s cooked in a delicious garlic sauce made with ground pork. The soft texture of the eggplant, and the tangy, spicy notes of the garlic sauce create a dish you won’t be able to forget!
Table of Contents
- What is Chinese Eggplant?
- Why You’ll Love This Chinese Eggplant Recipe
- Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Chinese Eggplant
- How to Make Chinese Garlic Eggplant
- Joyce’s Tips For Making the Best Chinese Eggplant
- Serving Suggestions
- Recipe Variation Ideas for Chinese Eggplant
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Store Leftover Chinese Eggplant
- More Chinese Takeout Recipes You May Like
- Did You Make This Chinese Eggplant Recipe?
- Recipe Card
- More Chinese Recipes To Try
Chinese eggplant, also known as Yu Xiang Qiezi (鱼香茄子), literally translates to fish-fragrant eggplant, but it actually doesn't have any fish in it at all. It’s a warm and cozy dish that’s traditionally made with deep-fried eggplants tossed in a sweet, sour, savory, and spicy meat sauce.
This is the perfect Chinese dish to prepare at home, whether you're hosting a dinner party or just looking for a new recipe to spice up your dinner routine.
Before we start, keep in mind that my version of Chinese eggplant is the Cantonese version that you often find in Chinese restaurants and not the Sichuan version made with a spicy bean paste called douban.
Read on to learn exactly how to make this delicious Chinese eggplant recipe today!
What is Chinese Eggplant?
Chinese eggplant, often referred to as Yu Xiang Qiezi (鱼香茄子), is an iconic Chinese dish that literally translates to ‘fish-fragrant eggplant.’ Interestingly, though, it doesn’t contain any seafood ingredients. It’s essentially Chinese eggplant with a hot garlic sauce and features hot, sweet, and sour flavors.
Originating from the Sichuan province, this iconic dish features tender strips of deep-fried eggplant that are skillfully coated in a garlic sauce that has the perfect combination of sweet, sour, savory, and spicy notes.
There’s debate over why the name literally translates to ‘fish-fragrant eggplant,’ but many people believe it’s either because the sauce was originally used to cook fish or that the traditional pickled chili pepper used to make this dish was picked with fish. Regardless, my recipe will give you an authentic version that’s incredibly easy to make at home.
Why You’ll Love This Chinese Eggplant Recipe
You Don't Need to Deep Fry the Eggplant: This dish might look complex, but my recipe is incredibly straightforward and simple. Traditionally, this dish is made by deep frying the eggplant first but I use a pan frying method that mimics the deep frying, which also steams it as well to make the eggplant soft and delicious. With clear directions for each step, from preparing the eggplant to making the garlic sauce, you'll find this dish a joy to create.
Delicious: The sweet and savory garlic sauce pairs perfectly with the soft texture of the eggplant, creating a mouthwatering dish.
Family-favorite: This recipe is a crowd-pleaser, perfect for family dinners or gatherings. The combination of ginger, soy sauce, garlic sauce, and Chinese black vinegar creates a flavor explosion that pleases both adults and kids.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Chinese Eggplant
All you need are some incredibly simple, pantry-staple ingredients to make this delicious Chinese eggplant recipe at home.
Here's an overview of the specific ingredients for this recipe. For the exact ingredients and measurements, please scroll to the recipe card below.
- Chinese eggplants (Asian eggplant): The star of the dish, Chinese Eggplants are known for their sweeter and milder taste, perfect for absorbing the flavors of the garlic sauce. For this recipe, you should use Chinese eggplant. Do not use Italian eggplant for this recipe, it has a bitter flavor and does not have the same sweetness to it.
Aromatics for the Garlic Sauce:
- Onion or Shallot: Adds a depth of flavor to the garlic sauce. It brings a sweet and mild flavor that compliments the other ingredients.
- Green Onions: Infuses the garlic sauce with a mild oniony flavor. The whites are cooked with the sauce while the greens are used as garnish, adding a pop of color.
- Garlic: A crucial ingredient in the garlic sauce, it gives the dish its signature fragrant garlic aroma and a robust flavor.
- Sweet Red Pepper: Adds a sweet pepper flavor to the garlic sauce, enhancing its overall flavor.
- Birds Eye Chili: This is optional, but if you like your dish spicy, this will give it a fiery kick.
For the Eggplant Sauce:
- Soy Sauce: This will be the primary salty, umami flavor in your sauce, lending a savory depth to the dish.
- Sugar: This balances out the saltiness from the soy sauce and adds a touch of sweetness to the sauce.
- Chinkiang Vinegar: This Chinese black vinegar brings a tangy flavor to the sauce, providing a balance to the sweetness and saltiness. If you don't have it, you can substitute it with rice vinegar. You can buy this at any Asian grocery store or online on Amazon.
- Cold Water: This is used to dilute the sauce and balance the strong flavors.
- Cornstarch: This is our thickening agent. It will give the sauce a nice, glossy finish, and help it cling to the eggplant.
- Ketchup: My secret ingredient! It's not traditional, but it brings all the flavors of the sauce together, adding a perfect balance of sweetness, tang, and saltiness. It's a must-have and should not be omitted or substituted.
For the Pork Marinade:
- Ground Pork: This is the main protein in our dish. It absorbs the flavors of the marinade and adds a meaty texture. Traditionally, Chinese eggplant recipes use ground pork, but you can substitute it with ground chicken/turkey.
- Oil: This helps to tenderize the pork and keep it moist during cooking.
- Cornstarch: This will coat the pork and help to lock in its juices, resulting in tender, flavorful meat.
- Salt: This is essential for seasoning the pork and bringing out its natural flavors.
- Shaoxing Cooking Wine: This optional ingredient adds an extra layer of flavor to the marinade. If you have it, use it!
How to Make Chinese Garlic Eggplant
Making this incredible Chinese eggplant recipe at home is super easy and will give you great results every single time. Here's how to make it step by step:
How to Prepare the Eggplant, Vegetables, and Sauce
Prep the eggplant: Begin by washing the eggplant and cutting off the tops. Then, cut them into pieces about two to three inches in length and one inch thick.
Soak the eggplant: Place the cut eggplant in water, using a small plate to keep them submerged. This soaking process, which should last about five to ten minutes, prepares the eggplant for the 'quick steam' cooking method used in this recipe.
Prepare the aromatics: While the eggplant is soaking, finely chop onions, green onions, red chili (or optional sweet red pepper), and garlic. Set these ingredients aside for later use.
Mix the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients, ensuring that you use cold water to prevent the cornstarch from forming clumps. Set the prepared sauce aside.
Marinate the ground pork: Season the ground pork with a bit of cooking wine, salt, oil, and cornstarch.
How to Cook Chinese Eggplant
Drain the eggplant: Once the soaking time is complete, drain the water from the eggplant.
Heat the pan and pan-fry the eggplant (skin side down): To start, add some oil into the pan to lightly coat the bottom and set it to medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the eggplant pieces, skin side down. This placement mimics 'deep frying,' keeping the skins purple and preventing the eggplant from absorbing too much oil. If all the eggplant pieces don't fit, you may need to cook in two batches. Each batch should cook for about three minutes.
Steam the eggplant: After three minutes, add half a cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid, steaming the eggplant until soft. This should take about three to five minutes. If there's still water left after this time, continue cooking with the lid off until it's completely evaporated.
Remove and set aside the eggplant: Once the eggplant is soft and all the water has evaporated, remove the pieces from the pan and set them aside.
How to Prepare Garlic Sauce and Finish the Dish
Cook the pork: Add a bit more oil to the pan and, once hot, add in the pork. Cook for approximately three to four minutes or until fully cooked and no longer pink.
Add the aromatics: Next, add in the garlic, minced onions, chili pepper, red pepper, and the whites from the green onions. Cook these with the pork for one to two minutes.
Thicken the sauce: Stir the previously prepared sauce (the cornstarch may have settled at the bottom) and add it to the pan. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, which should take about one to two minutes.
Combine the eggplant and the sauce: Add the cooked eggplant back into the pan and stir-fry everything together. Let the eggplant cook in the sauce for about a minute. Be careful not to overcook the eggplant at this point, as it can become too soft and dissolve into the sauce.
Garnish and serve: Finally, garnish your dish with the green parts of the green onions that were set aside earlier. Serve your delicious Chinese Eggplant with white rice and a side of vegetables. Enjoy your homemade, flavorful meal!
Joyce’s Tips For Making the Best Chinese Eggplant
Use Ketchup: Although not a traditional ingredient in Chinese eggplant recipes, I use a touch of ketchup to bring all the flavors together, providing a perfect balance of sweetness, tang, and saltiness.
Pay Attention to Cooking Times: Avoid overcooking the eggplant. Once it is soft, it is ready. Overcooking can make the eggplant too soft and it may dissolve into the sauce.
Take Care of Your Wok: If you are using a wok or any seasoned pan, make sure you wash off the sauce quickly after cooking to prevent the vinegar from stripping off the seasoning from your pan.
Double the Sauce: If you want a saucier dish, simply double the ‘sauce’ ingredients in the recipe!
- For an exciting twist on your usual dinner, serve this Chinese eggplant recipe with some Egg Fried Rice or Vermicelli Rice. The rice will soak up the delicious garlic sauce, creating an explosion of flavor with every bite.
- Pair this Chinese eggplant dish with Sweet and Sticky Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork) for a hearty meal. The sweet and savory pork compliments the tangy and spicy eggplant perfectly, creating a well-rounded dining experience.
- If you're in the mood for a noodle dish, why not serve this Chinese eggplant with Singapore Noodles? The light, curry-flavored noodles add a delightful contrast to the rich, garlicky eggplant.
- For seafood lovers, consider pairing this Chinese eggplant recipe with Chinese Stir-Fried Ketchup Shrimp. The sweet and tangy shrimp provides a refreshing counterpoint to the spicy and savory eggplant.
- Serve this Chinese eggplant dish with Chinese Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp for a quick and satisfying weekday dinner. The soft and fluffy eggs and shrimp balance out the bold flavors of the eggplant.
- For a truly delicious and authentic Chinese meal, try serving this Chinese eggplant recipe with Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce. The tender, savory ribs add a delightful meaty element to your meal, making it even more satisfying, especially when eaten with plain white rice.
- If you're craving a sweet and sour dish, pair this Chinese eggplant recipe with Sweet and Sour Chicken. The combination of these two dishes make a fantastic Chinese takeout night!
Recipe Variation Ideas for Chinese Eggplant
This delicious Chinese eggplant recipe is so flavorful and easy to make, you'll want to try out some of these delicious variations! Here are some great ideas:
Go Meatless: If you're looking for a vegetarian or vegan variation, simply omit the ground pork. You can add more Chinese eggplants or other vegetables like bell peppers and mushrooms to keep the dish hearty and fulfilling.
Use Dried Salted Fish: Some traditional recipes use dried salted fish to give this dish a saltier and more flavorful dish! To use dried salted fish, debone it by removing the fish off the bone by hand (I would use about 1-2 tablespoons of salted fish). If the fish is too dry, and you can't remove the fish off the bone, soak the fish in hot water for 5-10 minutes to soften it. Fry it at the same time you brown the pork to bring out the fragrant flavors and that's it!
Try it with Chicken: If you're not a fan of pork, you can replace it with chicken. Marinate the ground chicken in the same way as the pork, making sure that it's well-coated for maximum flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, for this specific Chinese eggplant recipe, you should not peel the eggplant. The skin of the eggplant helps to hold its shape during the cooking process. Without the skin, the eggplant could become too soft and mushy.
Italian eggplants are typically larger in size and have a slightly bitter flavor, which is why they are often salted before use. On the other hand, Chinese eggplants are smaller, lack bitterness, and when fully cooked, they offer a sweet flavor and a creamy texture.
Chinese eggplant doesn't have a strong flavor of its own. However, it possesses a mild, sweet, and creamy taste. Its ability to absorb flavors makes it an excellent choice for recipes that include sauces, like our stir-fry.
When shopping for Chinese eggplant, look for ones that are bright purple with no brown spots. The skin should be smooth and unwrinkled. For a tender texture, the eggplant should be slightly bendable when gently pressed.
Absolutely! If you can't find Chinkiang black vinegar, rice vinegar makes a good substitute. It may not taste exactly the same, but it provides the necessary tartness for the recipe.
How to Store Leftover Chinese Eggplant
If you have leftover Chinese eggplant, you can easily store it. Allow it to cool completely, and then transfer the leftovers into an airtight container. It should last in the fridge for three to four days.
When you're ready to enjoy your dish again, reheat it on medium heat in a pan or wok. Stir occasionally to make sure that it heats evenly. Add a splash of water if it looks a bit dry. Make sure it is heated through before serving.
Alternatively, you can also microwave it for about 1-2 minutes, stirring every minute to ensure the dish is evenly heated.
Unfortunately, Chinese eggplant doesn't freeze well. The texture of the eggplant can become mushy once thawed. I recommend making it fresh.
More Chinese Takeout Recipes You May Like
- Sweet and Sour Pork
- Beef Chow Fun
- Singapore Noodles
- Chilli Chicken
- Crispy Cantonese Beef Chow Mein
- Sweet and Sticky Crispy Beef
- Chicken Manchurian
- Saucy Beef Ho Fun Noodles with Gravy
- Hong Kong Style Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Chinese Lemon Chicken
Did You Make This Chinese Eggplant Recipe?
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Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (鱼香茄子)
Joyce's Recipe Notes
- You can double the 'Sauce' section to get a saucier final dish.
- Do not use Italian eggplant for this recipe, it has a bitter flavor and does not have the same sweetness to it.
- Traditionally, Chinese eggplant recipes use ground pork, but you can substitute it with ground chicken/turkey.
- Ketchup is not a traditional Chinese eggplant ingredient but it is my secret ingredient for the garlic sauce recipe. It's a must-have and should not be omitted or substituted. The ketchup will bring all the flavors of the sauce together and give it that perfect balance of sweet, tangy, and saltiness.
- If you are using a wok, or any seasoned pan for this recipe, make sure you quickly wash off the sauce right after you have finished cooking it so that the vinegar doesn't strip off the seasoning from your pan.
- Some traditional recipes use dried salted fish to give this dish a saltier and more flavorful dish! To use dried salted fish, debone it by removing the fish off the bone by hand (I would use about 1-2 tablespoons of salted fish). If the fish is too dry, and you can't remove the fish off the bone, soak the fish in hot water for 5-10 minutes to soften it. Fry it at the same time you brown the pork to bring out the fragrant flavors, and that's it!
- 2 Chinese eggplants
Aromatics for the Garlic Sauce
- ¼ onion (approx. 2 tablespoons), or 1 shallot
- 1 stalk green onions (finely chopped, whites and greens seperated)
- 3 cloves garlic (approx. 1 tablespoon)
- ¼ sweet red pepper (2 tablespoons, finely chopped)
- 1 birds eye chili (optional, if you like it spicy.)
- Wash the eggplant and cut off the tops. You can cut them a few ways. The simplest way to cut them is to cut the eggplant into 2-3 inches lengthwise, and 1 inch thick.
- Soak the eggplant in water. Use a small plate to weigh them down so they stay submerged in the water. The soaking will help with cooking the eggplant with the 'quick steam' method I will be using for this recipe. Soak for 5-10 minutes.
- While the eggplant is soaking, finely chop ¼ onion (or shallots), 1 stalk green onions, 1 birds eye chili (or optional ¼ sweet red pepper) and, 3 cloves garlic and set this aside
- In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons Chinkiang black vinegar, ½ cup cold water, and ½ tablespoon corn starch,.Make sure you are using cold water to prevent the cornstarch from clumping. Set the sauce aside for later.
- In another bowl, marinate ½ cup ground pork, with ½ teaspoon Shaoxing Cooking Wine, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon oil and ¾ teaspoon cornstarch.Set it aside for later.
- Drain eggplant
Cook the Eggplant
- Add some oil into the pan to lightly coat the bottom of the pan and set the stove to medium heat.
- Once the pan is hot, add eggplant pieces in, skin side down against the hot oil. By adding it skin side down, it will mimic the 'deep frying' and keep the skins purple and prevent the eggplant from absorbing the oil. If you cannot fit all the eggplant in the pan, you may have to cook it in 2 batches. Cook it for about 3 minutes.
- Once 3 minutes is up, add ½ cup of water into the pan and put a lid on it. This will 'steam' them until they are soft. Steam the eggplant for about 3-5 minutes.
- Once 3-5 minutes is up, remove the lid. The eggplant should be soft by now. Don't worry if there is still a bit of water left, you can continue to cook the eggplant with the lid off until all the water dissolves.
- Remove the eggplant out of the pan onto a plate and set aside for later
Make the Garlic Sauce and Add Eggplant Back
- Add a bit more oil back into the pan. Once the pan is hot, add in the pork and cook it for approximately 3-4 minutes or until it is fully cooked and no longer pink.
- Add in the aromatics (garlic, minced onions, chili (or red pepper), the whites from the green onions and cook it for 1-2 minutes with the pork.
- Stir the sauce (the corn starch may have settled to the bottom of the bowl). Add the sauce into the pan and keep stirring it until the sauce has thickened. (Approximately 1-2 minutes)
- Add the eggplant back in and stir fry everything together. Cook the eggplant in the sauce for about 1 minute. Do not overcook the eggplant at this point, once the eggplant is soft it is done. If you overcook it, the eggplant will become too soft and may dissolve into the sauce.
- Garnish it with the green part of the green onions that were set aside and serve it with white rice and a side of vegetables and enjoy!
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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More Chinese Recipes To Try
- Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡, Taiwanese San Bei Ji)
- How to Make Chicken Congee (鸡粥)
- Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce
- Sweet and Sticky Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- Chinese Tomato Egg Stir-Fry 番茄炒蛋 (Authentic Easy Recipe)
- Chinese Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go, 萝白糕)
- Buttery Scallion Pancakes
- Chinese Sticky Rice (Lo Mai Fan)