Swap out your weekly stir-fry for this delicious Chinese eggplant recipe, the perfect veggie alternative that sacrifices none of the flavors. Packed with eggplant garlic sauce, you’d never guess this classic Chinese dish was gluten-free AND vegan.
One of my favorite ways to serve one of my favorite vegetables is with a delicious Asian garlic sauce. It blends some of the most commonly used flavors in Asian cooking with a little Sichuan twist, which means plenty of spice – and plenty of delicious flavors. Garlic eggplant is a great way to dress up the veggie and help you get in your five a day. You can even add extra veggies to bulk it up with nutrients.
Eggplants are amazingly good for you. The key staple of Asian eggplant recipes, often already packed with flavors and nutrients from other ingredients, Chinese eggplant is high in Vitamin C, K, A, and Potassium. They’re also high in fiber, low calorie, and naturally packed with antioxidants, not to mention studies showing they help to lower blood sugar levels, protect DNA cells and reduce the risk of heart disease.
For this recipe, I am using Chinese eggplant, which is one of the longest eggplants you can buy, has fewer seeds, and has a mild, sweet flavor. This makes a great base for my eggplant recipe, as it blends well with the sauce and becomes tender and soft when cooked. No more boring stir fries for weekday dinners! Here’s how to make Chinese eggplant your favorite new dinner staple.
What Is Chinese Eggplant
Eggplant has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, so it’s only natural it gets included in many of their meals. The typical Asian eggplant recipe is believed to come from the Sichuan region of China, where it’s served mixed with a thick, tangy garlic sauce infused with spices. Made in a skillet or wok, it’s a vegetarian mainstay in many Chinese restaurants.
What Type of Eggplant Should I Use
For this recipe, regular eggplants aren’t the best.
I love to use Asian eggplant – so Chinese or Japanese – in my Asian-inspired dishes. Chinese eggplants have fewer seeds and aren’t as bitter. If you’ve only got traditional eggplants to hand, they’ll do in a pinch.
But if you want the best, look for longer eggplants with a smooth surface and bright purple skin. It should look thin and be easy to bend. If it’s not, it’s likely not ripe yet – or the wrong kind of eggplant.
What Is the Difference Between Chinese Eggplant and Regular Eggplant
There are some key differences – the shape (long and thin vs stout and fat) and the general color (regular are a deeper purple and Chinese are lighter, more of a lavender color). A Chinese eggplant will have fewer seeds and a mild, sweet taste, whereas a traditional eggplant will have more seeds and a more bitter taste when it’s cooked.
Chinese Eggplant Ingredients
- Eggplant: I prefer to use Chinese or Japanese eggplant, though you can use traditional if you prefer. You’ll also need salt and water to brine it before cooking.
- Cornstarch: Or cornflour, this will coat the eggplant.
- Vegetable Oil: If you prefer, you can use peanut or sesame oil, or any kind of neutral cooking oil.
- Aromatics: I like using ginger and especially garlic (very useful for eggplant with garlic sauce).
- Chili paste: Use your favorite, that way you can adjust the heat levels. I like to stick to my homemade version.
- Sauce: To make the sauce, you’ll need Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic), white rice vinegar, light soy sauce (or shoyu), dark soy sauce, water (you can use chicken or veggie stock, but keep it low sodium), sugar and cornstarch.
- To garnish: I love to use green onions and red chili slices.
How to Cook Chinese Eggplant
There are just a few easy steps to make this delicious eggplant dish with spicy garlic sauce.
Prepare the Eggplants
Wash and dry the Asian eggplant. Then proceed with cutting the eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then into two.
Then, brine the Chinese eggplant. To do this, mix water and salt in a large bowl until the salt has dissolved. Add the eggplants, then place a heavy object over the bowl to keep the eggplant submerged – like a lid or a plate/bowl. Set aside for 15- 20 minutes.
Drain and dry well. I like to spin them in a salad spinner first. Then, pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Then, coat the eggplant with cornstarch – you can put it in a bowl and toss it together.
Prepare the Other Elements
As the eggplant is brining, measure out what’s needed of the other ingredients. Mince the garlic and ginger.
Make the sauce by mixing all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisking well until there are no lumps.
Cook the Eggplant
Heat a large pan or wok over high heat. Add half the oil and swirl it around the pan. Add the eggplant pieces in a single layer and reduce the heat to medium. Stir-fry and turn the pieces every minute until they are tender and browned on all sides.
This cooking process should take 4-5 minutes only. Once cooked, place the eggplant on an empty plate.
Increase the heat to high, add the remaining oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili paste, then stir-fry for 30-60 seconds.
Stir the sauce in the bowl to keep it mixed, then carefully pour it into the pan. Stir-fry for 15-30 seconds – the sauce should thicken and become glossy as it cooks. If it thickens too quickly, add a little water and allow it to cook off before serving.
Return the eggplant to the pan. Toss to coat with the sauce. You only need to cook it for a further 1-2 minutes. Give the dish a taste and adjust any ingredients to taste.
Serve the Chinese garlic eggplant with rice, noodles, or as a side dish. You can top it with garnishes popular in Chinese eggplant recipes – I like scallions, cilantro, and red chili.
How to Store Chinese Eggplant
This eggplant garlic recipe can be stored both in the fridge and the freezer – though I’d always recommend you eat it when it’s fresh!
Cooked garlic Chinese eggplant can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days after cooking. Store in an air-tight container or some strong freezer bags.
You can also store it in the freezer. You’ll want to make sure the Chinese eggplant garlic is completely cool before putting it in – this will help maintain the texture and taste. It can keep for up to six months, but I’d recommend eating it in a few weeks.
Yes, you can. But, be aware that the taste and texture of the Chinese eggplant recipe will change if you use a traditional eggplant. Chinese eggplants are sweeter and softer, so they may also require less time in the pan.
Yes! The skin of Chinese eggplant, like ordinary eggplant, is harmless and adds flavor and plenty of color to the dish.
It depends on where you live. Some larger grocery stores may sell Chinese eggplant alongside the typical offering.
But, if you want the best vegetables, you should head to an Asian market or grocery store – you’ll know the produce is freshest there. Asian eggplant recipes are popular in many Chinese cuisine types, so they’re a staple offering at any good Asian market.
More Eggplant Recipes
- Oven Roasted Eggplant Slices
- Eggplant Salad
- Crispy Eggplant Chips with Honey
- Eggplant Tomato Dip
- Stuffed Eggplant
If you try this spicy eggplant recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Authentic Chinese Eggplant Recipe
- 22 oz eggplants best to use Chinese or Japanese (6 medium)
- 1.8 oz salt for soaking (1/3 cup)
- 4 cups water or enough to cover the chopped eggplants
- 0.35 oz cornstarch 1 Tbsp
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil divided
- 0.85 oz garlic 5 cloves
- 0.35 oz ginger 1 tablespoon minced/grated
- 0.7 oz chili paste your favorite (1 Tbsp)
For the Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce or shoyu
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water or chicken/veggie low sodium stock
- 0.7 oz sugar 1.5 Tbsp
- 0.2 oz cornstarch 1/2 Tbsp
- A pan or a wok
Prepare the eggplant
- Wash and dry the Asian eggplant. Then proceed with cutting the eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then into two. (Refer to the images on the blog.)
- Brine the Chinese eggplant. To do this, mix water and salt in a large bowl until the salt has dissolved. Add the eggplants, then place a heavy object over the bowl to keep the eggplant submerged – like a lid or a plate/bowl. Set aside for 15- 20 minutes.
- Drain and dry well. I like to spin them in a salad spinner first. Then, pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel.
- Coat the eggplant with cornstarch – you can put it in a bowl and toss it together.
Prepare the remaining ingredients
- As the eggplant is brining, measure out what's needed of the other ingredients. Mince the garlic and ginger.
- Make the sauce by mixing all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisking well until there are no lumps.If you are planning on making rice for this dish, you can start it while the eggplant is brining.
Cook the eggplant
- Heat a large pan or wok over high heat. Add half the oil and swirl it around the pan. Add the eggplant pieces in a single layer and reduce the heat to medium. Stir-fry and turn the pieces every minute until they are tender and browned on all sides. This cooking process should take 4-5 minutes only. Once cooked, place the eggplant on an empty plate.
- Increase the heat to high, add the remaining oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili paste, then stir-fry for 30-60 seconds.
- Stir the sauce in the bowl to keep it mixed, then carefully pour it into the pan. Stir-fry for 15-30 seconds – the sauce should thicken and become glossy as it cooks. If it thickens too quickly, add a little water and allow it to cook off before serving.
- Return the eggplant to the pan. Toss to coat with the sauce. You only need to cook it for a further 1-2 minutes. Give the dish a taste and adjust any ingredients to taste.This Chinese eggplant stir-fry is best enjoyed over rice or noodles. You can top it with green onions, scallions, red chili, and some sesame seeds before serving.
- It's best to enjoy this dish fresh. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, covered for between 3-5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze for up to 6 months.Reheat the garlic eggplant dish in the microwave or on the stovetop, optionally with a splash of water to thin the sauce once more.
- Adjust the spice: feel free to reduce/increase the chili paste to adjust the spice levels to your personal preference.
- Adjust sauce ingredients: in general, most of the sauce ingredients can be adjusted to personal preference (soy for saltiness, sugar for sweetness, etc.)
- Other vegetables: there are several other veggies you could add, including julienned carrots, mushrooms (shiitake or others), and sweet/bell peppers.
- Nuts: instead of the sesame seeds, you could top off the stir-fried eggplant with lightly toasted cashews or peanuts.
- Aromatics: in terms of the sauce, there are several ways you can increase flavor – for example, with oyster sauce or hoisin sauce.
- Protein: instead of or alongside the eggplant, you could add tofu or chickpeas for added protein.
I do not see miso in the recipe. Did it get revised and left out?
Looking forward to making this!
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I updated the recipe and omitted the miso. It’s amazing without it too, I hope you give it a try!
This recipe looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it. I noticed a couple of people mentioned miso but I didn’t see instructions or measurements for it anywhere in the recipe. Can you please clarify how much and at what step it should be used?
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I updated the recipe and the updated version doesn’t have miso. It’s amazing as it is now, I hope you give it a try! 🙂
Worked out great. Even the kids are all of it. Next time I’ll make twice as much so I have some,e for lunch.
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Thank you so much for your comment, Stuart. So glad you all enjoyed it! 🙂
So easy and delicious!! Did not have miso but used a little bit more soy sauce as a substitute. Will definitely make this dish again!!
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Thank you so much for your comment. So happy you enjoyed the recipe!
I made this today and it was quite good, however mine did not come out as red in color as yours did. Did you use red miso? I ended up using white, which is what I had on hand. It was still very flavorful and I will be making it again.
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Yes. I also used dark soy sauce – it changes the color quite a bit.
I’m glad you liked it and I hope you’ll try some of the other recipes on my blog. 🙂
I love, love, LOVE eggplant and I am so thankful I came across this recipe. Cannot wait to try it.
I am in Williamsburg, Va and there is what I would call somewhat of a high end Chinese Restaurant that I frequent. By high end, I am referring to menu items not normally found in neighborhood Chinese restaurants. My favorite one serves a similar eggplant dish that I find exceptional. One thing they do is to add roasted walnut halves. It makes a huge diffenece. Whether odering in the restaurant or as a takeout I always order double the walnuts. Just that will be my dinner and I am in heaven.
I now can make it myself.
So, so, happy.
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Thank you for your comment. The addition of roasted walnuts sounds delicious 🙂
Made today was super delicious
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Thank you for your comment, Carol. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!