These pan-fried Chinese eggplants with chili garlic sauce are soft, spicy, slightly sweet, a little sour, and very delicious! It’s a super simple vegan eggplant recipe that makes a great side dish, appetizer or main course over rice!
Chinese Eggplants with Chili Garlic Sauce
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of eggplants, but this Chinese recipe is so delicious that I had to get some more! Perfectly fried eggplants have a great meaty consistency – similar to that of mushrooms. And if they get marinated in a slightly hot and spicy chili garlic sauce, they taste just incredibly amazing!
When I cook Chinese and Asian dishes, I mostly use tofu as a vegan fish alternative or meat substitute. You can easily marinate it with a simple sauce and fry it in no time until crispy. However, I wanted to try something different this time so a quick and spicy eggplant dish came to my mind.
Yu Xiang Qie Zi “fish-fragrant eggplant”
By the way, Yu Xiang Qie Zi is the Chinese definition for this dish and literally means “fish-fragrant eggplant”. However, the recipe itself has nothing to do with fish at all and contains neither fish nor other seafood. This spicy sauce is only called that way because it’s a popular Sichuan flavor that is also used for fish dishes and even more.
How to prepare eggplants
Step 1: Add salt and let them soak
To make this recipe, start to cut the eggplants into strips. Then, transfer them to a bowl, add salt and mix well to combine. Set aside to soak for at least 15 minutes to allow the eggplants to draw out their moisture and bitter juices. This step not only makes the consistency softer but also ensures a milder flavor. Next, pat the eggplants dry by pressing them between paper towels to soak up the moisture that comes out. Finally, sprinkle with a little bit of cornstarch to make sure they absorb less oil while frying.
If you find the eggplants too salty after soaking, you can also rinse them under cold running water before patting them dry.
Step 2: Fry and season the eggplants
Now the Chinese eggplants are ready for frying. I prefer using peanut oil for this Sichuan dish because it has an amazing nutty flavor that goes well with the other ingredients. However, also another vegetable oil or coconut oil is a great option. Once the eggplant skin is nicely browned and the inside turned soft, you can remove it from the pan. Then roast the ginger, garlic, and chili for a few seconds in the same pan. Add the eggplants back to the pan. Mix the sauce and pour it over the eggplants so they’re evenly coated. Bring it to a brief boil until the sauce thickens up to the desired consistency. Serve immediately!
A little note on the sauce
This recipe is not a saucy dish because the sauce consists just of a small amount of soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, cornstarch, and coconut sugar. It is rather a spicy marinade that adds moisture and flavor to the eggplant and ensures it stays crispy. For this reason, the sauce is added just at the end to make sure it won’t evaporate completely.
This Chinese eggplant recipe is:
- Vegan (egg-free, dairy-free)
- Quick and easy!
The perfect appetizer, side dish or main course
I like to garnish Chinese eggplants with fresh spring onions, sesame and some lime wedges on the side. However, the toppings and garnishes are totally up to you! You can serve these Chinese eggplants either as a healthy side dish, a light starter or as a main course over rice or pasta.
Want more vegan Chinese and Asian recipes? Then you will like the following dishes for sure:
- Vegan dumplings (Gyoza/ Potstickers)
- Vegan Pad Thai with Veggie Noodles
- Thai Peanut Ramen Noodle Soup
- Scallion Pancakes
- Crispy Sesame Tofu with Tahini Sauce
- Asian Peanut Sesame Noodles
- Crispy Vegan Spring Rolls
- Vegan Bibimbap
If you’ve tried this Chinese fried eggplants with hot chili garlic sauce recipe, feel free to leave me a comment and rating. And if you take a photo of your dish, please link me on Instagram @biancazapatka and use the hashtag #biancazapatka so I don’t miss your post! Enjoy!
Chinese Eggplants in Chili Garlic sauce
For the Sauce
- 2 ½ tbsp peanut oil or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp ginger minced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 chili pepper chopped
- Cut the eggplants into small chunks as shown in the step-by-step photos above. Then transfer them to a large bowl, add the salt and mix well to combine. Allow to soak for 15 minutes (or up to 1 hour).
- Then pat the eggplants dry, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and mix well to coat. (If you find the eggplants too salty after soaking, you can also rinse them under cold running water before patting them dry.)
- Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan or wok over medium heat. Add the eggplants and fry for about 5-8 minutes. Once the skin is well browned and the inside turns soft, remove the eggplants and transfer to a plate.
- Add the remaining oil, ginger, garlic, and chili to the same pan and roast for a few seconds while stirring until fragrant. Then put the eggplants back to the pan. Mix the sauce again until the cornstarch is completely dissolved and pour it over the eggplants. Stir immediately until the eggplant is evenly coated and the sauce thickens.
- Garnish the eggplants with spring onions and sesame and serve as a side dish or as a main course over rice or pasta with lime wedges on the side.
- You can find more information about the recipe in the blog post above!
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