This is a quick and easy Chinese eggplant recipe with a sweet and tangy garlic sauce. The eggplant pieces are so tender, they almost melt in your mouth. It’s a new favorite in my kitchen! Ready in 20 minutes from start to finish.
Making a stir fry using eggplant can be challenging since achieving the right texture is supremely important to the success of the dish.
There is nothing more disappointing than to be served a plate of semi cooked, sort of crunchy eggplant, sitting in a puddle of oil. This is the reason why I no longer order eggplant dishes from restaurants and started making my own at home. This Chinese eggplant recipe is very easy to make and yields tender eggplant pieces perfectly seasoned with garlic and a salty, vinegary sauce. Delicious!
Table of contents
What is Chinese Eggplant?
Unlike the big, bulbous American eggplant that’s used for popular dishes like eggplant parmesan, a Chinese eggplant, which is the same as a Japanese eggplant, or an Asian eggplant, is much smaller and longer. Its skin is thinner and the flavor is also milder because it contains a lot less seeds (which cause eggplant to taste bitter) than the American type.
Because of it smaller size and thinner skin, Chinese eggplants are perfect for stir frying, sauteing, and grilling, since they take less time to cook and have a milder taste.
Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce Ingredients
- Chinese eggplant: As previously mentioned, if you cannot find anything labeled Chinese eggplant, look for Japanese or Asian eggplant. They are all the same.
- Peanut oil: Peanut oil has a nutty flavor and a high smoke point, which makes it the ideal oil for stir fries.
- Garlic: Just like with Italian food, Chinese food cannot be made without garlic! Garlic provides that pungent and slightly sweet and floral taste that we’ve all come to love so much.
- Ginger: Ginger adds a little heat and earthiness to this eggplant recipe.
- Chinese dried red chilis: Chinese dried red chilis infuses the dish with smokiness and heat. If you can’t handle too much heat, remove the seeds as they are what makes peppers so hot.
- Scallions: Scallions are added last to provide a refreshing crunch and a colorful element.
- Sauce: A mixture of soy sauce, sugar, chinkiang vinegar, shaoxing wine, and sesame oil. Chinese garlic sauce has an iconic flavor profile that can be found in many Chinese dishes. It’s sour, salty, nutty, and a little sweet.
How to Make Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
Scroll all the way down to the recipe card to get the full Chinese eggplant recipe.
- Make the sauce. Whisk the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and leave it on the side.
- Chop and stir fry the eggplant. Stir fry the eggplant with a little oil for a few minutes over medium heat, until they are tender. Transfer the eggplant to a bowl.
- Cook the garlic, ginger, and chilis. Use the same pan and after cooking them for a minute, return the eggplant to the pan.
- Add the sauce and scallions. Stir fry for a quick minute and drizzle a little sesame oil.
- Serve with warm rice. Brown or white rice. Enjoy!
Tips on Cooking with Eggplant
- Take your time. Depending on the size, an eggplant can take up to 25 minutes to entirely cook. So it’s important that you stay patient when cooking with eggplant as they take time to soften. However, for this recipe, the eggplant shouldn’t take more than 5 to 7 minutes since we are using Chinese eggplant, and are slicing them bite size.
- Take it easy on the oil. Eggplants only need a little oil to cook. Since they absorb oil really quickly, adding too much will only make them mushy.
- Use salt to draw excess water. I only use this tip when I am cooking with American or certain types of European eggplants that are on the bigger and thicker side. By lightly salting them (they must be sliced for this tip to work) and leaving them for an hour or so, the excess water will make it easier for the eggplant to soak up the delicious sauce it is meant to be paired with. Wipe each piece clean with a paper towel before cooking with them.
- For Chinese eggplant, another way I absolutely love to cook them is to put them whole, in a skillet, with no oil, over medium heat. This a no fail trick and yields the most tender and perfect eggplant. Just turn them over after 2-3 minutes, when the skin is charred. Test the doneness with a knife and voila! Slice and serve on top of pasta, or drizzle with tsuyu or your favorite dressing. I taught this trick to my mother and now she uses it all the time!
You can store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Make ahead: This Chinese eggplant recipe can be made the day before and will still taste great the next days. For best results, make the sauce ahead of time and save it in the fridge. The sauce will keep for up to 1 month. I also always keep a container of chopped scallions in the fridge. It’s a huge time saver if you cook a lot of Asian food like I do.
Frequently Asked Questions
Try using zucchini or thinly sliced potatoes (preferably chopped into thin sticks). Potatoes are often used in Szechuan cuisine despite the fact that we don’t see them very often on menus here in the US. They are a staple ingredient for the simple reason that they are cheap and take on pretty much any flavor you add to them.
Technically yes, you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The reason being that American eggplant has a thicker skin, lots of seeds which can be very unpleasant in a stir fry, and a stronger, more acrid, taste.
It depends on the eggplant. For smaller and younger eggplants like a Chinese eggplant, there is no need to since the skin is thin. For larger eggplants, yes, you should always peel the skin as it may be old and have a tough texture.
What to Serve with this Chinese Eggplant Recipe
Aside from a warm bowl of rice, there are plenty of other Chinese classics you can serve with this dish.
Some of my favorite are:
- Bok choy with garlic and oyster sauce
- Singapore Chow Mei Fun
- Moo Goo Gai Pan
- Egg fried rice
- Vegetable wonton soup
Did you like this recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
This is a tender Chinese eggplant stir fry dressed in a spicy garlic sauce. Ready in 20 minutes from start to finish.
- 2 to 3 long Japanese or Chinese eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 to 3 Chinese dried red chilis, chopped
- 4 scallions, finely chopped on the bias
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon chinkiang vinegar
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce into a bowl and set aside.
- In a large pan over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon peanut oil and eggplant. Stir fry for a few minutes (about 5 minutes) until the sides are golden brown and the center is tender.
- Transfer eggplant to a plate and add remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the pan. Add garlic, ginger, red chilis and cook for 1 minute.
- Add eggplant and scallions, toss and pour the sauce. Stir fry for 1 minute, until all the vegetables are coated.
- Turn the heat off and serve with white or brown rice.
Leftovers: Store the leftovers in an airtight storage container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Serving Size: 2
- Calories: 194
- Sugar: 6.2g
- Sodium: 883.8mg
- Fat: 16.5g
- Saturated Fat: 1.4g
- Unsaturated Fat: 5g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 10.1g
- Fiber: 1.7g
- Protein: 2.2g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: eggplant stir fry