I have started to cook Sichuanese. I mean the real Sichuanese cuisine, because as soon as I opened Fuchsia Dunlop’s “Sichuan Cookery” I realised that many dishes labelled as Sichuanese are not Sichuanese at all. The contents of this book sounded so fascinating that I must have bookmarked a third of the recipes. The two first ones I chose to test turned out marvellous (no photos yet, but I will repair my mistake soon) and a plate of steamed aubergines sounded too unusual to miss it.
I might have already mentioned that I used to be completely indifferent to the aubergine and rather avoided it because it always seemed difficult to prepare in a way that wouldn’t include tons of oil. Nowadays I realise that I like the aubergine more and more every year, so I look out for every new recipe, preferably not calling for deep or shallow frying. Fuchsia Dunlop says this is a simple home recipe, but for me it was a revelation. It was easy, it took me about 20 minutes and the first impression is unforgettable. The texture of the steamed aubergine is incredibly silky, soft, moist, “buttery” as says the author, and the vinegared chili sauce gives it a huge awakening kick. In the meantime I have noticed some more steamed aubergine recipes at Shizuoka Gourmet, so you will probably see some more of these on my blog.
Before I pass to the recipe I would like to tell you about an extraordinary surprise Zsuzsa (Zsuzsa is in the Kitchen) prepared for me. Yesterday I felt as if it had been my birthday when I saw this gorgeous Poppy Seed and Chocolate Cake on her blog. This cake was prepared by my mum for every single one of my birthdays and is still the best cake I have ever had in my life. I have posted it some time ago (see here my clumsy version) and have completely forgotten that Zsuzsa promised to prepare it one day. Thank you, Zsuzsa, for this virtual present and such a huge surprise! I was deeply touched.
Now back to the recipe! (I have slightly modified it, adapting to a side dish for 2 and also adjusted it so that it can be steamed in a basic rice-cooker which like mine doesn’t have “high heat” or “low heat” options).
TIP: The author advises salting the aubergine in order to remove the bitterness. I have realised many years ago that, at least in the part of Europe I live in, aubergines are no longer bitter and do not require this stage. If your aubergines are of the bitter variety, cut them in half, salt them and leave for 30 minutes. Then wash them and pat them dry before starting to steam them.
Preparation: about 20 minutes
Ingredients (serves two):
1 medium aubergine
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang, easily found in Asian shops)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chili oil preferably containing flakes; I used my home made Taberu Rayu, but I think any chili oil with the addition of chili flakes will do
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Cut the aubergine in two (removing the leaves and the stem of course).
If using a rice cooker pour 300 ml (about 1 cup and 1/5) water, place the aubergine on the steaming plate.
Steam until the rice-cooker switches off.
(If you have a separate steamer, the author advises to steam the aubergine for 5-10 minutes over a high flame.)
Cut the aubergine into bite-sized pieces and serve either hot or cold with the chili sauce aside (as a dip) or pour the sauce directly over it (this is the way I preferred it).