FOOD: Sichuan pork and eggplant stirfry

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The recipe below is my take on one of the more popular dishes in Chinese households.  Eggplant with minced pork, combined with a spicy and aromatic Sichuan sauce, results in a dish that will leave your tongue tingling from the Sichuan peppercorns! If you can get your hands on ‘‘Chinese eggplants’’, it’s worth the effort. They have a thinner skin, and are longer and skinnier than traditional eggplant, with fewer seeds and less bitterness to them. If you soak the eggplant in some salted water before cooking, it can reduce the bitterness and prevents too much oil being soaked up. Enjoy this taste of China!

PREP TIME:  10 MINS

COOK TIME:  12 MINS

SERVES:  3-4 PEOPLE

INGREDIENTS
400g pork mince
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 Chinese eggplants (or one large regular eggplant)
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons water
2 spring onions, sliced

SICHUAN CHILLI OIL
4 to 8 whole hot Chinese dried chillies
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar (all Asian Supermarkets have this)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced

METHOD
1.  Start by making the Sichuan oil. Place chillies and Sichuan peppercorns in a dry pan and toast until aromatic, about 2-3 mins. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, or food processor, and
crush until it’s about the texture of chilli flakes. Transfer to a small saucepan.

2.  Heat oil in another small pan over medium heat until shimmering. Immediately pour hot oil over chilli/peppercorn mixture (it should sizzle). Let cool for 5 mins, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add sesame oil and set aside.

3.  Combine sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic in a small bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add to the chilli oil mixture.

4.  Top and tail the eggplant, then slice the egg plant in half length-ways. Now cut into
finger-sized strips. If you choose to, you can now soak for 10 mins in salted water.

5.  Take a large pan and add in two tablespoons of vege oil. Fry the eggplant in batches
for about 2 mins each side, until they’ve softened. Set aside.

6.  In the same pan, add a little more vege oil. Heat to a medium heat and tip in the garlic,
cook for a minute before adding in the pork and turning up the heat a little.

7.  Cook the pork until browned all over before pouring in four tablespoons of the chilli oil.
Thoroughly combine and then add back in the eggplant. Now add in the stock and oyster sauce and bring to the simmer for 3-4 mins.

8.  Combine the cornflour and water and then pour into the pork mix. Stir through before
adding in the spring onions.

9.  Taste and add a little more chilli oil if desired, then pour into a serving bowl. Serve with
rice.