Probably as famous as ma po doufu, this is a favourite among homesick Sichuan folk the world over. There's no fish in the dish - its flavouring is named for the seasonings used in traditional fish cookery. Dainty Sichuan's South Yarra version offers crunchy eggplant, while its city-store version is the buttery traditional one you see here.
- 75 ml Chinkiang black vinegar
- 30 gm caster sugar
- For deep-frying: vegetable oil
- 600 gm eggplant (about 2), cut into finger-sized pieces
- 8-10 long red pickled chillies, finely chopped (see note)
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 tsp finely grated ginger
- 100 ml chicken stock
- 100 ml Shaoxing wine
- 1 tbsp potato flour
- 4 spring onions, thinly sliced, to serve
- 1Combine vinegar and sugar in a bowl and set aside.
- 2Heat oil to 180C in a wok over medium-high heat. Add eggplant in batches and deep-fry until golden and just tender (3-4 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit), then drain well on absorbent paper.
- 3Carefully ladle oil into a heatproof container (cool, then discard), leaving 2 tbsp oil in wok. Add pickled chilli, garlic and ginger to wok, and stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds). Add eggplant, stock, Shaoxing wine and vinegar mixture, season to taste with salt, reduce heat to medium and simmer until liquid is absorbed (6-8 minutes). Mix potato flour with 2 tbsp cold water to combine, add to eggplant mixture and stir to thicken (1 minute), then serve hot scattered with spring onion.
Note Pickled chillies are available from Chinese grocers.
Drink Suggestion: Cold dry pilsner