I’m a fan of ma po tofu. My daughters love the flavors of the dish but they weren’t enamoured with tofu. So, I created ma po eggplant. It’s the same spicy tasty dish but small pieces of eggplant replace the tofu.
The beauty of the substitution is that, like tofu, eggplant has this capacity to soak up flavors that it gets in contact with. And that’s why I didn’t cook the eggplant cubes separately. I added them after all the spices and seasonings had been added. As they simmered in the braising liquid, they absorbed all the wonderful flavors of every ingredient in the pan.
If that’s not enough reason to try ma po eggplant, consider that, unlike tofu which is practically flavorless, Asian eggplants are rather sweet. And that sweetness blends wonderfully with the spices in the dish.
Ma Po EggplantRecipe by
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans
- 1 half-inch knob ginger
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 shallots
- 3 large Asian eggplants
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- ¼ kilogram ground pork
- 1 tablespoon chili bean paste
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- ¼ cup Shao Xing rice wine
- ¾ cup broth
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 6 scallions cut into half-inch lengths
- few stalks cilantro
- Toast the Sichuan peppercorns in an oil-free pan then grind (with a mortar and pestle or an electric grinder).
- Drain the fermented black beans, rinse, drain again then pound.
- Peel and mince the ginger and garlic.
- Peel and chop the shallots.
- Cut the eggplants into one-inch cubes.
- Heat the cooking oil. Add the ground pork and, over high heat, cook until the meat changes color.
- Add the ground Sichuan peppercorns and black beans and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add the garlic, ginger, shallots, chili bean paste and chili flakes. Pour in the Shao Xing rice wine. Bring to the boil.
- Stir in the eggplant cubes.
- Stir the corn starch into the broth and pour into the pan. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the sauce clears and thickens.
- Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the eggplants are done, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Taste. Add salt, if needed.
- Transfer the cooked Ma Po eggplant to a serving bowl or platter, sprinkle the sliced scallions on top followed by the cilantro, and serve immediately.