A traditional Chinese recipe where the brinjal is first softened and browned until golden by a quick deep-fry, then stir-fried together with minced garlic and dried shrimp, and flavoured tastefully with a dark soy sauce and seasoning blend.
I simply cannot get enough of this beautiful, deep-coloured vegetable. Call it by whatever name you identify with – whether it’s brinjal as it’s widely referred to here in Asia, eggplant or aubergine.
I love it because it’s supremely versatile – it’s delicious when deep-fried, smoked, grilled, baked, braised, steamed or stewed. Seriously, I am finding it hard to think of more vegetables than all my fingers, that can be prepared in so many ways and still come out on top in terms of texture and taste.
Oh, and did I mention how nutritionally good brinjal is? That lovely deep, dark purple peel contains Vitamin D, which is scarcely present in vegetables, as well as Vitamin E. Brinjals are also believed to cool down our body system, aid blood circulation, and improve healing, from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine. And there’s more good news if you’re trying to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Consuming brinjal on a regular basis helps prevent hardening of blood vessels, protects the heart and blood arteries. It helps to reduce high blood pressure as well as prevent a high level of cholesterol. Now, that’s something you can surely take to heart!
As with most of my vegetable dishes, I enjoy preparing brinjal, Chinese-style. And even that’s not in any way, narrowing the field or limiting the scope of what you can do with this vegetable. I’m sharing a traditional Hakka recipe where the brinjal’s hardy, but extremely fleshy texture is first softened and browned until golden by a quick deep-fry. It is then stir-fried together with minced garlic and dried shrimp, and flavoured tastefully with a dark soy sauce and seasoning blend. Simple. Sumptuous. Satisfying.
- 500 g brinjal preferably dark purple variety
- 1 tsp salt for soaking water
- Some cooking oil for deep-frying
- 20 g dried shrimp
- 2 cloves finely minced garlic
- 50 ml hot water
- 1 1/2 tsp chicken seasoning powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Some finely chopped spring onion
- Some sliced red chilli
Wash brinjal, trim the stem off, and cut into wedges. Fill a deep bowl with enough water to soak all the wedges, and add salt. Place all the wedges into the salted water and let soak for 10 minutes, to remove bitter compounds. Drain and set aside to dry completely.
Meanwhile, soak dried shrimp in some water until softened. Drain, roughly chop and set aside. Dissolve chicken seasoning powder in hot water, and set aside.
Fill a wok one quarter full with cooking oil. Heat up over high heat until oil is very hot. Deep-fry brinjal, in batches of 6 to 7 wedges , until golden brown (about 1 minute or less). Keep stirring the wedges around in the hot oil, turning the fleshy side down into the oil to brown it. Remove and drain on paper towel. Repeat until all the wedges have been deep-fried till golden brown. Turn off heat.
Drain the oil from the wok, leaving behind 2 tbsp of oil. Heat up wok over medium heat. When oil is hot, add minced garlic. Fry till fragrant, about 10 seconds. Then add dried shrimp, and continue to stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add fried brinjal wedges, chicken seasoning water, sugar, dark soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir vigorously to mix well together and let braise for about 15 seconds, until flavourful. Turn off heat. Scoop out onto a serving plate. Garnish with chopped spring onions and sliced red chilli. Serve hot.