Eggplants ala Yuxiang (鱼香茄子 – yú xiāng qié zi) is one of my favorite dishes ever. It is also one of the trickiest names on the menu – both misleading and hard to translate. It is commonly known as “Fish Fragrant Eggplant” which is how you translate the name literally, but it’s not very accurate nor is it friendly to the western ear. The dish has no fish in it plus 香 doesn’t necessarily mean ‘fragrant’ here.
So instead I chose to call it Riverside Eggplant. First of all, the word ‘river’ implies fish. If one lives close to the river one might cook eggplants the same way one cooks a fish and that is exactly the meaning behind the Chinese name. Plus, this dish is from Sichuan and chuan (川) actually means river so this name captures a little bit of the origin of the dish as well.
Riverside Eggplant tastes spicy-sweet and it goes really well with plain white rice. It’s simple and easy to make. Here’s the clip:
The lesson is pretty straight forward but here are some other useful pointers:
- This clip shows you the very basic version of the Yuxiang Qiezi. It’s very common to add strips of bell peppers and / or mu’er. In other clips I came across people also added minced pork or diced fish to the mix but that’s not how most restaurants make it.
- The tricky part is not to let the eggplant get soggy. The eggplants you use must be fresh and not too soft. Make sure the oil is hot enough before you start deep-frying and that there isn’t too much oil during the stir-fry.
- Some people tackle the sogginess challenge by soaking the eggplant strips is salt water for 10 minutes and then cover them with cornstarch powder to make them absorb less oil.
- When it comes to the type and shape of the eggplant, there are too schools – round eggplants cut to thick strips and long eggplants cut to strips or slices.
- When using long eggplants you may also leave the skin.
That’s pretty much all you need to know. The kitchen is waiting.