Chilli Bean Paste Eggplant
This is a simple Chinese-style wok dish of spicy chilli soy bean paste eggplants (辣豆漿茄子). Though eggplants (aka brinjal or aubergine) on their own taste quite bland (at least to me), they soak up the savoury soybean sauce like a sponge and go so well with steamed rice.
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The sauce is delightfully simple to make with a ready bottled of chilli soy bean paste. The bottle above was recommended by my mum, who was introduced to this by her supermarket friends. You can actually use any favourite brand of soy bean paste. Combined with red chilli, garlic and simple seasonings, it helps to make a quick and savoury sauce for many Chinese stir-fries.
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How to pre-cook eggplants and retain its purple hue:
Have you noticed the vibrant purple of this eggplant dish after they are cooked? The purple shade usually turns an unflattering brown if one simply throws them in the wok to stir-fry. The science behind retaining the purple hue is to cook and lock in the eggplant colour at a higher temperature. The most common method used by restaurants is to deep-fry the eggplants prior to adding them to the wok, which to me is too cumbersome and oily. This recipe uses a far simpler method of boiling the eggplants.
Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Add cut eggplant chunks into the boiling water, skin side down for 3 minutes. They need to be skin side down because the light eggplants will float on top of the water, but the purple part needs to be submerged/cooked in at least 100°C for the beautiful purple colour to be locked in.
Cool the eggplants in bowl of cold water for a minute or so. Drain and set them aside. You can see from picture above that the beautiful vibrant purple hue is locked in, and the eggplants will more or less retain this lovely colour when added in the wok later. There are other methods of cooking eggplants (deep-frying, steaming, microwaving) which will work well to retain the purple colour. But for now, this is by far the simplest, my favourite and also the healthiest method which is used for this recipe.