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Slow-cooked Eggplant with Star Anise

October 19, 2010

For the farming adventures that preceded this recipe, click here.

If you’ve spent the better part of your years avoiding squishy, greasy eggplant that oozes rancid cooking oil, you’ve come to the right place. This clay pot dish is unique in that hardly any oil is used at all: the secret is a pinch of sugar to soften the eggplant before adding them to the aromatics.

If your relationship with star anise is limited to mulled wine, I strongly urge you to start using it in savory dishes. No grinding or toasting is necessary, and it adds a licorice-like bittersweet note that complements garlic and ginger quite nicely.

(Adhering to the original recipe is still ideal, so I’ll post that with my modifications in parentheses)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound eggplant, cut into pieces about 2 inches long and half an inch wide.
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped (I substituted chopped onion and added it at the beginning)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced.
  • A knob of ginger, peeled and minced (optional)
  • Cilantro, chopped (I subbed basil from the farm)
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon bean paste (豆瓣酱); 1 tablespoon of soy sauce (I used some generic “chili marinade” whose primary ingredient was soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with water.

Procedure:

  1. Heat a little peanut oil (half a tablespoon) in a wok. Slow fry eggplant with sugar in very low heat till the eggplant becomes soft.
  2. Take the eggplant out. Wash and dry the wok (you can also use a clay pot). Heat a little oil, then added the chopped scallions, garlic, ginger if using, and star anise.
  3. Add eggplant, cooking wine, bean paste, soy sauce, and some water. Cook until the eggplant is SOFT. This might take a while.
  4. Optional: Add cornstarch to thicken the sauce.
  5. Add chopped cilantro.
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