Chinese-Style Spicy Eggplant Salad

published Aug 12, 2021
summer
Chinese-Style Spicy Eggplant Salad

Chinese eggplants are steamed, torn into pieces, then coated in a moderately spicy sauce and served cold or at room temperature.

Serves2 to 4

Prep25 minutes

Cook10 minutes to 15 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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chinese style eggplant on a plate
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Chinese eggplant soaks up flavor like a sponge. With fewer seeds than most eggplant types, the slender and cylindrical Chinese variety has a delicately sweet taste and creamy texture that explains why it’s prominently featured across many cuisines — in everything from flash-fries and roasts to stews and mashes.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My family’s favorite way to prepare Chinese eggplant has always been this wonderfully simple one. We steam the eggplant to soften the flesh, rip it into smaller pieces (which maximizes flavor-absorbing surface area), then coat the silky veg in a moderately spicy sauce featuring the zing of chili peppers, earthiness of sesame oil, and tartness of vinegar. We spice it up further by tossing in some chili flakes, as well as Sichuan peppercorns, which provide exceptional fragrance and mild numbing to balance the heat. The eggplant drinks up all these aromas — especially if you give the flavors a bit of time to really infuse.

The Chinese language refers to recipes like these as 凉拌菜 (liángbàn cài), which translates to “cold-tossed dish.” They’re best served cold or at room temperature and, especially during the warm summer months, make tasty appetizers or side dishes — although don’t be surprised if they wind up stealing the show.

Chinese-Style Spicy Eggplant Salad

Chinese eggplants are steamed, torn into pieces, then coated in a moderately spicy sauce and served cold or at room temperature.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    medium Chinese eggplants (about 3)

  • 2 tablespoons

    distilled white vinegar

  • 4

    small fresh red chiles, such as Thai chiles

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    medium scallion

  • 1 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground Sichuan peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable or peanut oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon

    Chinese black vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons

    toasted sesame oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Trim 3 medium Chinese eggplants. Halve lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 3-inch-wide pieces. Place in a large bowl and cover with room-temperature water. Add 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar and stir to combine. Place a plate on top of the eggplant to keep the pieces submerged and let soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a steamer and bring the water to a boil over high heat.

  2. Remove the eggplant from the water, and place in the steamer in an even layer. Cover and steam until tender and easily pierced with a chopstick or fork, about 8 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the eggplant to a colander. Once well-drained and cool enough to handle, tear each piece in half lengthwise with your hands and place in a serving bowl.

  3. Prepare the following, adding them to a medium heatproof bowl as you complete them: Slice 4 fresh small red chilis into thin rounds, finely mince 3 garlic cloves, thinly slice 1 medium scallion, add 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns, and stir to combine.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Immediately pour into the chile mixture and stir to combine. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine.

  5. Pour the chile mixture over the eggplant and gently fold to combine. Let sit for at least 20 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 days to let the flavors meld before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.