80 ml(1/3 cup) peanut oil3small eggplant, each cut into 8 wedges150 gmminced pork1 tbspcoarsely crushed Sichuan peppercorns25 gmginger, coarsely chopped and pounded with a mortar and pestle to a paste5garlic cloves, crushed2 tbspChinese chilli bean paste100 mlchicken stock60 ml(¼ cup) soy sauce60 ml(¼ cup) Chinkiang vinegarTo serve:coarsely chopped coriander, thinly sliced spring onions, prickly ash oil (see note) and steamed jasmine rice
Preheat oven to 150C. Heat 50ml oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Brush eggplant with remaining oil and cook in batches, turning, until golden (3-5 minutes). Transfer to a casserole dish.
Add pork to pan and stir occasionally until cooked (3-5 minutes). Add peppercorns and stir until fragrant (1-2 minutes), then add ginger, garlic and chilli bean paste, and stir until colour deepens (1-2 minutes). Add stock or 100ml water, soy sauce and vinegar, and bring to the boil, then pour mixture over eggplant, cover with a lid or foil and braise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove cover and braise until eggplant is very tender (45 minutes to 1 hour).
Serve hot scattered with coriander and shallots, dotted with prickly ash oil to taste, and with steamed rice to the side.
Note Prickly ash oil, also known as Sichuan
peppercorn oil, is available from Asian grocers.