Steamed Aubergine with Chili Sauce


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 simpleย 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)ย 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).



50 Replies to “Steamed Aubergine with Chili Sauce”

  1. Hi Sissi, when I saw the title of the post I immediately knew I’d like it. I’m a big aubergine (we call it eggplant) fan and adding spice to the mix is right up my alley. The Australian eggplants are quite sweet too so there’s no need to salt them either. I should really try this recipe as I normally grill mine or oven-roast.

    1. Thank you so much, Martyna. I think that the bitter eggplants are rare nowadays. I have also grilled my aubergines until now, but now I will start steaming them too.

  2. Yes, yes, yes! I have loved Sichuan cooking most of all the provincial Chinese areas, and tomorrow was going to be a stuffed aubergine meal and now instead I have this very simple recipe for a busy day! Thank you so much ๐Ÿ™‚ ! I have used eggplant for many years now. I too was worried about the ‘fat factor’ in my early cooking career, but steaming/then baking and stir-fry recipes take no oil or very little ๐Ÿ™‚ ! Must suss out FDs book!

    1. Thank you so much, Eha. I appreciate your comments a lot. Fuchsia Dunlop is apparently THE foreign specialist of the Sichuanese cuisine. She talks about Sichuan as if it was a paradise and spent there quite a lot of time and also followed classes in a famous Sichuanese cookery school. She has written some other book too. I will certainly buy them as soon as I will have made at least a dozen recipes from this one, which seems the best introduction.

  3. Am laughing – as I was writing my send, Martyna had finished hers and said something very similar!!

  4. Hi Sissi, I better start to comment to your blog first thing; now that I opened my computer, and stay on this one comment section. I fixed all the issues again, on my comment section, and switched back to the original commenting plan…hopefully no restrictions this time.

    As I mentioned to you in e-mail last nite, I do love the mango chicken salad…very colorful, healthy and delicious. Stir frying the chicken is the best way to combine it with the other ingredients, just the way you made them. I will for sure make this simple and delicious salad, while our mango supply lasts.

    As for the eggplant with the Sechuan sauce…it has to be my very favorite way to eat it. I would roast the eggplant instead of steaming it, and of course use the amazing spicy sauce with it/on it/in it…either way it sounds amazing!

    1. Hi, Elisabeth. I’m glad your problems are over now. Technical problems are the worst part of blogging.
      Thank you for all the compliments. I remember now of course you have lots of mangoes! This salad is a perfect way to use them for sure.
      I usually grill eggplant too but this time I was more than happy to steam it. The consistency is unique, impossible to obtain by grilling I think. It is silky, buttery, soft, moist… difficult to explain, but I loved it.

  5. Dear Sissi, I owe you a debt of gratitude for your birthday cake recipe, we had it 24 hrs later for desert and I have no words to describe the experience of that slice with each mouthful being pure delight, I had to close my eyes, this is indeed is an extraordinary cake thank you thank you!

    1. Zsuzsa, I don’t know what to say. I am thrilled you like this cake so much. It gets better, it’s true, I think because the whole cake becomes softer and really moist. The flavours blend too probably and it’s so complex isn’t it? Oh, how I miss this cake now… I don’t know if I will resist baking it this weekend. It seems that I had a good taste apparently as a child ๐Ÿ˜‰ because I hated all the other layered cakes and found them boring/heavy/too sweet/nauseous or everything together. This was the one and only. I will tell you something funny. Once my mum had an “excellent” idea to modify this cake a bit putting one white layer and one chocolate layer. When I saw it in my slice I had tears in my eyes because it was not THE cake, moreover I couldn’t imagine how I could like white cream as much as chocolate cream (and of course I didn’t). My mum felt very sorry and told me I could discard the white layer and eat more slices instead. Since then she has never changed anything in this cake.

  6. I adore aubergine, Sissi and this recipe looks very tempting. I particularly love the texture of aubergine, so silky and creamy as you described. I never thought of using the rice cooker for anything but rice, how clever to use it to steam aubergine! I do have a traditional steamer as well, and perhaps that is why the thought never crossed my mind.
    That was very lovely of ZsuZsa to make your favourite cake for you, it looks absolutely gorgeous. The Ganache looks perfect, so creamy and shiny and I can only imagine how wonderful the flavours and texture was on first bite. What a beautiful thing to do for a fellow blogger.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I have a special plate with holes for steaming sold with my rice cooker, but I use it very rarely, usually for dumplings. Zsuzsa has made a very touching gesture. I felt as if I had two birthdays this year ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Sissi, I love how this eggplant sounds…light and so tasty, great for the warm weather.
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you are having a nice week ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I am always intrigued by your flavour combinations and sauces Sissi – like you, I adore vinegar, chilis and soy sauce so I quite enjoy seeing what you whip up in your kitchen. I’m a bit like your former self when it comes to aubergine, so I think I will have to be adventurous and give this one a try; it sure looks wonderful – you may have just converted me ;-).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. Actually I think if you are not a big fan of the aubergine, you might have a nasty surprise here. The very soft buttery texture was extraordinary for me but I can imagine people hating it too. Although I’m sure you would love the sauce.

  9. Oh My Goodness! Just checked out the poppy seed cake – how gorgeous! I can’t believe your mom used to make that cake for you every year on your birthday…. What a lucky girl! And how kind of Zsuzsa to surprise you with her version of it. It’s a definite WOW cake :).

    1. Thank you Kelly for the compliments. I believe it’s the most original layered cake on the earth and certainly not bland/too sweet/nauseous like some layered cakes can be… It’s also surprisingly not heavy (which alas means that I can eat it, eat it and eat it and never have enough).

  10. How simple! And delicious! I must try this out. I’ve got all the ingredients at hand too. We usually pan grill the eggplants and have some sort of sambal over it. This will be a nice change.

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. The texture is really different, much more softer, almost like butter. I hope you will like it, but I warn you it’s really unusual.

    1. Hi, Mr. Three-Cookies! Thank you. It’s so nice to see you here! It’s so funny because yesterday I mentioned in an email with another blogger that I missed you a lot. I hope you come back to blogging soon! (It’s not my birthday, but thank you so much, I almost feel as if it was now after seeing Zsuzsa’s post ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

  11. Yum!!!
    You know the only ingredient I am missing for this recipe is chines black vinegar…
    SO picking up tmrw n making this…. I love the looks of this eggplant…
    God, Sissi you just made me so hungry!!

    1. Thank you so much, Reem. It was very funny because in this cookery book Chinkiang vinegar is used all the time and when I started to cook the first dish I remember I had bought it at least two years ago! Luckily it still smells ok.

  12. You know how much I love eggplant! I love this rice-cooker method. I know that it has a lot of rice-cooker recipes around, but to be honest I’ve never made anything but rice in rice cooker. I think I might have this vinegar in my fridge… I have some randon chinese condiments that my mother in law left when she was here. Have a great weekend (and email you back soon!).

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. It seems that the Japanese all love the eggplant. Do you remember the grilled eggplant with miso sauce you posted? I still make it regularly and it has made me fall in love with eggplant. Thank you so much!
      I don’t steam often (only sometimes dumplings), but since there is this special plate I find it easy in the rice-cooker (easier than in the traditional wooden things you put on a pan) and I don’t steam often enough to buy a separate steamer.
      It’s so funny because I must have bought this vinegar 2 years ago and used it only once, so I was more than happy to discover that it’s often used in Sichuanese cuisine. Have a great weekend too!

  13. Hi Sissi, so the toltottpaprika was a start of a hopefully long and happy readership…. this is a divine recipe I should be preparing soon. At the same time I have already ordered the cook book by Ms. Dunlop, should there be a surge on Amazon, it’s all your fault ;-)… I adore Sechuan cooking, my favourite London Chinese restaurant is (really) authentic of this cuisine, so much so when it was my local, we ordered according to the more usual Hong Kong or Cantonese habits and the results were less than satisfactory. Fortunately a friend who went to Chendung came with us sometime later and helped us to order, now I’m super excited about re-creating the tossed cucumber salad and the beef in hot chilli oil…Now after all that….. once I have a minute I shall make the out of this word cake (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!) and see if I’m right to somehow even just reading it I crave some morello cherries on the side, or even included somewhere???? Will report back once I tried. Thank you so much for all the inspiration!

    1. Thank you so much, K.. I have prepared another post with a Hungarian dish (I have already made it before though). I hope you will not be disappointed with F. Dunlop’s book. There are few photos, but the content is so delicious, no one needs photos ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s written with such a huge love for the Sichuanese cuisine, it’s a real pleasure even reading the introductions.
      We don’t have any Sichuanese restaurant here, but I have always loved hot dishes and I am a big fan of Sichuan pepper, so naturally I started to be interested in the Sichuanese cuisine.
      Thank you so much for the wishes, actually it’s not my birthday but I felt as if it was my second birthday ๐Ÿ˜‰ So you are also a fan of sour cherries? I love sour cherries too! I don’t know how to explain it, but I understand why it made you think of cherries. Good luck with the cake! I hope you will make it and enjoy it! Please let me know how it turns out. I’m also very curious what you will think about Fuchsia Dunlop’s book.

      1. Hi Sissi,
        yesterday I finally made your cake….with the addition of morello cherries as mentioned. I only baked one a bit larger cake-base as I only have one one spring-form, cut it in half, spread the ganache over both and sandwiched frozen pitted cherries (bless the Polish shop) between them, before covering the cake with the rest of he ganache. I must say I chickened out using the hole amount of rum (Mount Gay from Barbados) but luckily the thawing cherries provided enough juice to moisten the crumb. WONDERFUL! Thank you for the inspiration and try the addition one day!

        1. Hi, K. Thank you for this wonderful message! I am glad you liked the cake. Of course sour cherries are as Polish as poppy seed in cakes, so you have made a very Polish cake ๐Ÿ˜‰ Congratulations! It always makes me so happy when one of my recipes is prepared and most of all when it’s enjoyed!

  14. Hi Sissi, I love this photo – when I first saw it pop up in my feed reader I actually thought this was on Nami’s site and then when I came back to click on it I found out it was you instead!

    I love aubergine – I had some Szechuan-style braised aubergines just yesterday in a restaurant… so wonderful. This looks great, and I would definitely like to explore more szechuan (or sichuan!) cookery!

    By the way, I’ve heard of the salting tip for aubergines, but have never heard it attributed to removing bitterness. From experience and from the sources who have told me, I’ve always believed that it helps them cook better. Salting will shrivel them up a bit and make water just drip right off, so after a rinse and a pat dry you can easily fry them with a tiny fraction of the oil needed if they weren’t pre-salted (as then they act like an oil sponge!).

    1. Charles, you do realise you have made me the biggest compliment possible! Nami’s photos are simply perfect and she is my absolute idol from this point of view (not only this one actually ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Thank you so much. I must say however you are too kind… I know my photos are more than imperfect and that I should change my camera, make a special photo space, be less lazy etc.
      What a coincidence you had Sichuanese aubergines in a restaurant yesterday! (I follow the book’s spelling but apparently this region can be spelled in at least 3 ways… very difficult not to mix them up).
      In this book as well as Japanese cookery book the authors emphasise that only Western aubergines need the salting process because they are bitter. They say that the Asian ones are not bitter and don’t require it… I have never heard about what you have read. I must test it and try. (In steaming however they can absorb as much water from the steam as they wish. It’s just water).

  15. This looks SO simple and SO delicious. I’m not familiar with Chinese black vinegar but I know where I can find it. What a nice virtual gift from Zsuzsa! Now I need to go check out the cake!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. I see this vinegar in every basic Asian shop so I hope you can find it because I think it’s really very unusual in taste. Zsuzsa is a real treasure ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. The cake that Zsuzsa prepared in your honour is stunning! This post reminds me what blogging is all about! How lovely to see the friendships that evolve over sharing recipes. It has been a hard week at work that has left absolutely no time for blogging and now I’m heading out for a bit. While you won’t hear from me for the next week, I’m going to be thinking about all the recipes I want to try when I get back Sissi — including your sushi. Have a great week.

    1. Thank you, Barb. I do appreciate a lot the friendship developped through blogging. Some people feel like close friends and as if one knew them in real life not only virtually. Thank you for the kind words. Have a lovely holiday! See you soon!

  17. Aubergine is not an easy vegetable. My son doesn’t like it although I try to prepare it for him as appealing as possible. This dish looks superb!

  18. How in the world did I miss this posting? I LOVE eggplants, but have not cooked it for a long time because hubby is not fond of the way I stir fry it, and little girl refuse to taste it, probably due to the ugly brown mess mine looked like, hahah!

    I remember my Mom would steam eggplants and marinate it in vinegar and sugar, not my favorite way to enjoy this lovely vegetable, though your recipe looks wonderful, the colors are vibrant, and who can say no to the spicy kick!

    1. THank you so much, Jeno. I totally understand why people dislike aubergine. As you say the colour is not very nice and the very soft texture can put people off too. The taste is of course innocent. What I don’t understand is why some people hate zucchini?

  19. Dear Sissi,

    You have created some of my all-time favourite Sichuan dishes in your last few recipes! I love steamed eggplant Sichuan style but there are also the awesome sambal versions from South East Asia like Indonesia and Malaysia and it is one of the best things especially in winter although growing up in Malaysia, I never quite appreciated it as a kid.

    Another simple steamed Sichuan version that is not spicy at all is using just fresh garlic, oyster sauce, sugar and a little corn starch to create a thick flavoursome sauce for the eggplant to soak up. Absolutely one of the best comfort dishes!

    1. Thank you once more for the kind words. This aubergine was a huge discovery: my first steamed aubergine! I have intention to make a sambal for so many months… I have seen so many inspiring recipes and I know I would love every single one of them. Thank you for the mild sauce idea. It sounds delicious indeed.

  20. I love aubergines but they do HAVE to be cooked properly! I so rarely order them when dining out, but happy to use them at home. another recipe bookmarked – thank you !

    1. Thank you so much, Claire. Steamed aubergine is very special and unusual, but I found it delicious.

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