Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tang Cu Qiezi (Sweet and Sour Eggplant)

This is a variation on Sichuan Classic. In Chengdu, at a restaurant we dubbed "Pretty in Pink" because of its gaudy vinyl wall panels, we repaired to a small, open-front restaurant with 6 or 7 tables, one server and one cook.  I ordered Yu Xiang Qiezi,  but when it arrived it was obvious from its color that the cook had deep fried the eggplant, and omitted the chili paste and Chingkiang vinegar.  In spite of the fact that it was a bit different than the traditional,  we liked it very much--in fact, we rarely went back to traditional version.   Begging the chef's pardon, I’ll call this Tang Cu Qiezi, sweet and sour eggplant, in honor of its divergence from the more traditional methods of Sichuan.
2 - 3 Asian eggplants
2 small egg whites, beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt

2 – 3 Tab peanut oil
Heap Tab garlic
1 Tab minced ginger
1 round tab minced scallion
1or 2  dried chilies, chopped in 4 - 5 pieces
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 rounded tsp sugar
1/2 cup stock
1 Tab soy sauce
1 – 2 Tab wine
Cornstarch slurry

Sesame oil and cilantro for garnish

Prepare all other ingredients, and begin pre-heating the deep frying oil to 350 degrees.

Cut eggplants crosswise into 2 1/2 " to 3" segments, then each segment cut into eighths, lengthwise.  In a large bowl or plastic bag, combine cornstarch with salt.  When deep frying oil has nearly attained 350 degrees you can begin the sauce before frying the eggplant: turn up the wok and on moderate heat, stir fry the ginger for a few seconds, then add the chilis, garlic and scallion;  Toss for 30 seconds or so, until the edges of the garlic and scallion just begin to brown, and splash in the wine.  Add the sugar, stock, vinegar and soy sauce.  When the liquid begins to boil, drizzle in the cornstarch slurry until the sauce begins to thicken, and take off the heat.  The sauce should thick enough to coat a spoon, but not so thick that it will not flow easily when you tilt the wok.

Quickly toss the eggplant pieces in a bowl with the beaten egg whites.  Now toss them vigorously in bowl or plastic bag, then, with a colander or sieve, shake off excess starch.  Lower the eggplant into the fryer and fry for three minutes, stirring occasionally, until the outside is nicely browned and the center is soft but still moist.  Drain the eggplant for 15 seconds or so, then plate, arranging the pieces neatly.

If the sauce seems too thick when you are ready to pour it over the eggplant, thin with a teaspoon or two of stock.  Pour the sauce over the eggplant, then garnish with sesame oil and cilantro.

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