Crispy Szechuan-Style Eggplant and Tofu
- 2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 block extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed dry between paper towels and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil, plus more for frying
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- 3 Thai bird chiles, minced, or as desired
- 2 cloves garlic, grated on a rasp
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- Cooked white rice, for serving
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
In a shallow dish, combine 2/3 cup of the cornstarch, the salt and pepper. Toss the eggplant pieces in the cornstarch mixture to coat, shaking off the excess; set aside. Repeat the process with the tofu.
Heat 1/2 inch of the peanut oil in a large, deep, straight-sided skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Working in batches, cook the eggplant first, tossing gently until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and the tofu.
Carefully drain the oil from the skillet, and wipe out any residue using paper towels held with tongs. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to the skillet and heat it over medium heat. Add the ginger, about 1 teaspoon of the minced chiles (or to taste) and the garlic. Cook, stirring, until just fragrant, about 30 seconds; pour in the chicken stock mixture and bring it to a simmer. Simmer until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the cooked eggplant and tofu to the skillet and toss gently to combine. Stir in the sesame oil and remove from the heat. Serve immediately over rice and garnished with the remaining minced chiles if desired and chopped cilantro.