Chichi's Chinese: On Steamed Eggplant

Chichi's Chinese

Home-style Chinese cooking and occasional cultural commentary.


[Photograph: Chichi Wang]

Have you ever tried steaming eggplant? Eggplant lovers may cry foul at the thought of not roasting them, or not making them almost caramelized on the surface, and it's true, you will not get that result by steaming an eggplant. But what you do get is juicy and tender eggplant flesh, so sweet and naturally good, this may become your new favorite eggplant preparation.


Similar to the Chinese cold dish of eggplant dressed in sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic, it's in this same vein of minimalist preparation. The idea is to scoop out the flesh after steaming, toss it in oil, vinegar, and whatever other seasonings you have on hand. I've eaten the dish in Chinese homes and restaurants in a number of ways: topped with pickled chilies and cilantro, dressed with tahini, dressed with various types of vinegar.

Regardless of the garnishes, the dish is always cold and sweet, refreshing and light. It's a nice dish to have on hand for those days when you do not want to turn your kitchen into a sauna by way of the oven.

And once made, it can be kept in the fridge until such time that you are ready for eggplant-y refreshments.


The last time I made this dish, there were construction guys outside my window in East Harlem. One of the guys looked into my window and yelled "nice eggplants!" and the ensuing hooting and laughing at my produce was so riotious that I just had to give in, and hold up my eggplants for closer inspection. They were, after all, really nice eggplants.