Braised Eggplant with Tofu in Garlic Sauce

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

For the four weeks between January 14th and February 11th, I'm adopting a completely vegan lifestyle. Every weekday I'll be updating my progress with a diary entry and a recipe. For past posts, check here!

Note: Chinkiang vinegar is a black vinegar that can be found at most Asian supermarkets. Rice vinegar can be used in its place. Preserved mustard root can be found in the canned or jarred section of an Asian supermarket, sometimes labeled preserved or pickled Sichuan vegetable (check the ingredients label for mustard root). The eggplant can be par-cooked in the microwave if you don't own a bamboo steamer. To cook, line a large microwave-proof plate with paper towels. Place eggplant on top and microwave on high power until eggplant is completely tender, 5 to 8 minutes (be careful, plate will be very hot).

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

Braised Eggplant with Tofu in Garlic Sauce

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About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 4
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:30 minutes
Special equipment:Large wok plus bamboo steamer insert (or microwave, see note above)
This recipe appears in: Ask The Food Lab: Can I Stir-Fry On An Electric Cooktop? Vegan: Braised Eggplant with Tofu in Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Chinese or Japanese eggplant (about 4 small), or small Italian eggplant, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar (see note above)
  • 3/4 cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fermented broad bean chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, smashed with the back of a knife, plus 4 more whole cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, whites and greens thinly sliced and reserved separately
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced preserved mustard root (see note above)
  • 1 (12.3 ounce) box firm silken tofu, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Procedures

  1. 1

    Place eggplant in a large bamboo steamer and set over a wok filled with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, cover steamer, and cook until eggplant is completely tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

  2. 2

    While eggplant is cooking, make the sauce. Combine vinegar, wine, and cornstarch and stir with fork until cornstarch is dissolved. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, and sesame oil. Set aside.

  3. 3

    Wipe out wok and dry carefully. Add oil and whole garlic cloves. Heat over medium heat stirring and turning garlic cloves occasionally until light golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Discard whole cloves then increase heat to high and heat oil until smoking. Add sliced garlic, scallion whites, and preserved mustard root. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly until fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Stir sauce to re-incorporate corn starch, then add to wok, stirring constantly. Add eggplant and tofu and fold gently to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, folding and stirring occasionally until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in scallion greens and cilantro and serve immediately with white rice, if desired.

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