Sichuan Eggplant Stir Fry (Yú Xiāng Eggplant, 鱼香茄子)

Crispy eggplant covered in a sticky sweet, sour, savory and slightly spicy sauce. A signature Sichuan dish that turns eggplant haters into eggplant lovers. {vegetarian adaptable}

Sichuan eggplant stir fry is incredibly addictive! This is crispy eggplant covered in a sweet, sour, savory and slightly spicy sauce. {vegetarian adaptable}

Sichuan eggplant stir fry, or yú xiāng eggplant (鱼香茄子), is one of those under-appreciated real-deal Sichuan dishes that deserves more attention. Throughout the years, whenever I took a foreign friend or colleague to a Sichuan restaurant in Beijing, this stir fry was always one of the most popular dishes on the table.

What is yú xiāng?

Nobody would order this dish on a menu if they saw the direct translation… yú xiāng literally translates as “fish-fragrant” in Chinese, which might not sound as appetizing as the dish tastes.

In fact, fish-fragrant eggplant has nothing to do with fish.

According to folklore, a housewife was cooking eggplant for dinner and did not want to waste the leftover sauce used in a fish dish. The sauce was designed to cover up the fishiness and muddiness of river fish, so it’s extra fragrant. The dish turned out so well and her husband loved it more than the original fish dish. Thus, the dish was named yú xiāng or “fish-fragrant” as a homage to the delicious sauce.

Yú xiāng flavor is one of the seven key flavors in Sichuan cuisine. It contains soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, sugar, fermented spicy bean paste (dòubànjiàng), chili peppers, and a great amount of fresh garlic, ginger and onion. It results in a well-balanced, sweet and sour spicy sauce that is bursting with umami. The taste might be considered close to General Tso’s sauce, only 10 times more flavorful.

Sichuan Eggplant Stir Fry Cooking Process Sichuan eggplant stir fry is incredibly addictive! This is crispy eggplant covered in a sweet, sour, savory and slightly spicy sauce. {vegetarian adaptable}

The secret of cooking perfect eggplant on the stovetop

Eggplant is one of the most tricky vegetables to cook with, however the result is super rewarding if you do it right. In the past, I’ve discovered the method of creating crispy eggplant on the stovetop without deep-frying. The key is marinating the eggplant with salted water and then dusting it with cornstarch before grilling it on a flat-bottom pan. You can read my Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce recipe to view the details.

When cooking the yú xiāng eggplant the result is even better. The old method stays the same — the only thing I did slightly differently is use a bit more oil, about 1/2 cup. It is double than in my previous recipe, but still way less than for deep-frying.

Sichuan Eggplant Stir Fry Cooking ProcessNot only do the eggplant pieces turn out extra crunchy crispy with a tender interior, they stay crispy for a long time even after coating with the sauce. Better still, this time I used regular eggplant instead of Asian eggplant, and it worked!

It proved again that you can cook perfect crispy eggplant if you follow the right method. Next time you don’t need to make the extra trip to the Asian market to make this hearty dish.

Worried that your dish will be loaded with calories due to the added oil? It won’t; the eggplant only absorbs a small amount of oil during cooking.

Still don’t want to use so much oil? No problem. You can reduce the oil to 2 to 4 tablespoons and still get sticky eggplant with quite a crisp surface.

Sichuan eggplant stir fry is incredibly addictive! This is crispy eggplant covered in a sweet, sour, savory and slightly spicy sauce. {vegetarian adaptable}

Sichuan eggplant cooking video

I’ve created this short video for you, so you can easily get an idea of the workflow.

The video is slightly different from the recipe below because I updated the recipe with a few small tweaks… but the cooking process is the same.

More vegetable main dishes

  • Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce
  • Di San Xian (Fried Potato, Eggplant and Pepper in Garlic Sauce 地三鲜)
  • General Tso Tofu (Crispy Tofu without Deep Frying)
  • Chinese Vegetarian Noodle Soup
  • Vegetarian Chow Mein

Sichuan eggplant stir fry is incredibly addictive! This is crispy eggplant covered in a sweet, sour, savory and slightly spicy sauce. {vegetarian adaptable}

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
5.0 from 7 reviews Sichuan Eggplant Stir Fry (鱼香茄子)   Print Prep time 20 mins Cook time 15 mins Total time 35 mins   Crispy eggplant covered in a sticky sweet, sour, savory and slightly spicy sauce. A signature Sichuan dish that turns eggplant haters into eggplant lovers. {vegetarian adaptable} Author: Maggie Zhu Recipe type: Main Cuisine: Chinese Serves: 2 to 3 servings Ingredients

  • 2 (400 grams in total) eggplant, cut to 8-cm (3-inch) sticks (*Footnote 1)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (to coat the eggplant)

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cook

  • 1/2 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorn
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 8 cloves garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • (Optional) 230 grams (1/2 pound) ground pork (*Footnote 2)
  • 1 tablespoon dòubànjiàng (fermented chili bean paste)

Instructions

  1. Chop eggplant into long sticks of about 2-inch (5-cm) long and 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick.
  2. Place eggplant in a large bowl and add water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon salt, mix well. Place a pot lid on top to keep the eggplant under water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
  3. Add all the sauce ingredients into a bowl. Stir to mix well.
  4. Sprinkle eggplant with cornstarch and mix by hand, until eggplant is evenly coated with with a thin layer of cornstarch.
  5. Add oil to a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium high heat until hot. Spread eggplant across the bottom of the skillet without overlapping (you might need to cook in 2 or 3 batches). Fry the eggplant one side at a time until all the surfaces are charred and the eggplant turns soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cook the remaining batch(es) with the same method. If the skillet gets too hot and starts to smoke, turn to medium heat.
  6. Once the eggplant is all cooked, remove the pan from the stove. Drain extra oil and only leave 1 tablespoon in the pan by pouring the oil into a heatproof bowl, or wipe the pan with a few layers of paper towels attached to the front end of a pair of tongs.
  7. Add the Sichuan peppercorns into the pan. Cook over medium heat until the peppercorns turn dark brown. Remove them with a spatula and transfer to a small bowl (*Footnote 3). Add green onion, garlic and ginger. Stir a few times to release fragrance.
  8. Add ground pork. Cook and stir until the surface is browned.
  9. Stir the sauce again to completely dissolve the cornstarch, then pour into the pan. Stir until the sauce thickens. Return the eggplant to the pan and quickly stir to mix everything well.
  10. Turn to the lowest heat and taste the sauce (be careful, it will be very hot!) Adjust flavor by sprinkling a bit more salt or sugar, if needed. Turn to medium heat and mix well again. Transfer everything to a plate immediately.
  11. Serve hot over steamed rice as a main.

Notes 1. You can either use long Asian eggplant or regular eggplant. If you follow the steps in this recipe, both eggplants will turn out perfectly crispy.

2. You can skip the pork to make a vegan dish and the sauce will still be very tasty.

3. The cooked Sichuan peppercorns become fragrant with a more rounded taste, so they make a great seasoning. Save the fried Sichuan peppercorns and grind them into powder. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 month and use it in recipes that call for ground Sichuan peppercorns. Nutrition Information Serving size: 1 bowl Calories: 353cal Fat: 27.6g Carbohydrates: 25.1g Sugar: 10.4g Sodium: 846.7mg Protein: 2.7g Cholesterol: 0.9mg 3.5.3226
 

This recipe was originally published on March 4th 2014, updated on April 11 2017.

Sichuan Eggplant Stir Fry Cooking Process

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