Yu Xiang (yu hsiang) Eggplant (or Yu Xiang Qie Zi in Chinese), is a traditional Sichuan specialty and the most typical of the fish-fragrant specialties of Chinese cuisine.
The fish aroma in this recipe does not actually come from fish. Yu Xiang in Chinese means fish-fragrant. When I ate a Yu Xiang Eggplant for the first time, I thought that there must be fish in the recipe! But there was none. This eggplant dish has a fishy secret – fish fragrant sauce.
Here is a funny, but true story that happened in China:
An old man went to a fast food restaurant in Shenzhen, China. He ordered a fishy eggplant dish and a bottle of wine. When the old man tasted the Yu Xiang Eggplant, he was a bit unhappy, and argued with the restaurant owner, asking why the fish-fragrant eggplant had no fish in it.
The restaurant owner explained that there was no fish in the dish. Then the cook in the kitchen came out and explained it to the old man, but the old man would not hear it!
In the end, the old man only paid for the drinks, not the Yu Xiang Eggplant and the store owner did not say anything more about it.
Yu Xiang Eggplant has no fish in it, but there is a legend about fish. According to legend, households in Sichuan, a long time ago, liked to cook their fish with some onions, ginger, garlic, wine, vinegar, soy sauce, etc.
And whenever the hostess cooked more than one dish, she took the ingredients left over from the last time she cooked fish in order not to waste the ingredients, and her family unexpectedly complimented on the flavor of the food.
In reality, the fish-flavoring method was derived from the unique method in the Sichuan area. After many years of improvement, Sichuan has become famous for its dishes, such as Yu Xiang Rou Si, Yu Xiang Eggplant, etc., even though there is no fish in it.
In Yu Xiang, the most important ingredient is the Pixian bean paste.
Let’s make Yu Xiang Eggplant
- 200g long eggplant
- 80g minced meat
- 10g minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons stock or water
- 1 teaspoon water starch
- green onion
- 3 tablespoons bean paste
- 1.5 tbsp fermented rice
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon Sichuan pepper powder
- ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1/3 teaspoon sesame oil
Step 1: In a small bowl, combine the fermented rice, hot stock (or water), soy sauce and white sugar. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar.
Step 2: Cut the eggplant into long chunky pieces.
Step 3: Heat the hot oil in a pan and hold your hand about 20 cm above the oil, to test the heat. When the air feels hot, the oil’s temperature will be right.
Step 4: Place the eggplant into the pan, fry for 30-35 seconds and then immediately remove and drain.
Step 5: Take a little hot oil from the pan and stir into the minced meat.
Step 6: Stir bean paste into the meat, and then fry the meat in the oil in the pan.
Step 7: Next, add the garlic and seasoning sauce from Step 1. After the sauce has become thick, pour it into the fried eggplant and fry several times.
Step 8: Next, pour in the fermented rice and broth or water.
Step 9: Finally, add the pepper, vinegar and sesame oil and then turn off the heat.
Step 10: Serve, sprinkled with chives and green onion.
- What plays an important role in this fish-fragrant dish? It is fermented rice. A magical thing, and you can see the recipe here.
- So that the fried eggplant does not turn black or absorbs too much oil as it cooks, the oil temperature should be controlled at about 150 degrees Celcius, evident by a blue smoke emitted. Fry for 30-35 seconds and immediately remove.