Japanese Eggplant with Sichuan Pepper

People will be delighted to eat this side dish because the sauce is simply incredible. You'll find dozens of ways to use any extra sauce-drizzled on cold pork or chicken, over steamed rice, or tossed with noodles. It combines a variety of exotic ingredients, such as Szechuan peppercorns and Chinese black vinegar-all of which are available on Amazon and will last for months in your pantry.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 30 min
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients

2 Japanese eggplants, (two or three depending on size)

kosher salt

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, chopped

2 scallions, sliced on a bias

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons red chili oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns

2 tablespoons Sichuan bean paste

2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, substitute with balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, substitute with dry sherry

1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Slice the eggplant into 1 to 2-inch segments, depending on the width of the eggplant. Set up a steamer on the stovetop. Season the segments with salt. Place the eggplant in the steamer in a single layer and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Cool on paper towels.
  2. For the vinaigrette, trim the garlic cloves and mash gently with the side of your knife, then finely chop the garlic. Peel and chop the ginger root.
  3. Trim and slice the scallion on a bias. Save the white part for the vinaigrette and the green part for a finishing garnish. Keep the greens fresh by covering them with a moist, cool paper towel. Chop the cilantro.
  4. To assemble the vinaigrette, put the three oils and the Sichuan peppercorns in a small pot set over low heat. Heat until sizzling, then strain out the peppercorns. Discard the peppercorns and put the oil back into the pot. Add the garlic and ginger and heat until sizzling but not browned. Add the scallion whites and Sichuan bean paste and stir. Add the black vinegar, soy, mirin, wine, sugar, sesame seeds and cilantro and bring to a boil.
  5. Transfer the vinaigrette to a bowl and cool. Put the eggplant in a serving dish and season with the cooled sauce (depending on eggplant size, you may not need all the sauce—the sauce keeps for a week refrigerated) and sprinkle with the scallion greens. Finish with freshly ground black pepper, if you’d like a little more peppercorn flavor.
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