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Insipid eggplant dishes are now a thing of the past! It doesn't look very pretty but the taste more than makes up for it. The most important flavoring ingredient is the chili bean paste so choose a good one that is made with fermented fava beans or a combination with fermented soy beans. The dried shrimp add a lot of flavor but feel free to omit it for a vegetarian version. We made so much that my timing is a guesstimate, please be kind with me!! :)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 ounces zha cai, minced, drained well to get rid of excess fermenting liquid (pickled mustard tubers)
- 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, minced
- 1⁄4 cup chili bean sauce
- 3 green onions, white parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger or 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, minced or 4 garlic cloves, pressed
- 4 Japanese eggplants or 4 Chinese eggplants
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (more to taste)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
- white pepper
- green onion, green part, thinly sliced, garnish (optional)
- Soak the dried shrimp in a few tablespoons of hot water for about 5 minutes; drain, rinse, then mince the shrimp.
- Cut the eggplant into chunks on the bias.
- Cut at an angle, then rotate the eggplant a half turn, then cut on the bias again, repeat.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat.
- Add the chopped zha cai and minced dried shrimp, cook for a minute or two in the hot oil.
- Add the chili paste, green onions, minced ginger, and minced garlic and cook until the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the eggplant and stir to coat the pieces in the chili mixture, cook for a minute.
- Add the soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, and about a 1/4 cup of water.
- Cover and steam until eggplant are tender but not mushy.
- Stir occasionally, don't be too rough or you'll smash the eggplant.
- Season to taste with more soy sauce or salt.
- Garnish with sliced green onions (green part only; serve with brown or white rice.