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Szechuan Eggplant or Chinese Eggplant in Brown Sauce

Image of Szechuan Eggplant

Lunar New Year 2022, the Year of the Tiger, begins Tuesday, February 1, and lasts thru the Lantern Festival on February 15th. Also known as the Spring Festival, Lunar New Year is celebrated by millions of people all over the world, with traditions honoring family and friends filled with festive and symbolic foods.

This month’s recipe is one of my Chinese restaurant favorites, Szechuan Eggplant. Traditionally made with only eggplant and a bit of red pepper, I, of course, had to take it to a more flavorful and nutritious level by adding shiitake mushrooms, sugar snap peas (have you tried the yellow and purple ones?), and leeks.

More tender than conventional varieties, Chinese Eggplant is rarely peeled since its thin skin preserves its texture, flavor and shape.

The second most grown mushroom in the world, shiitakes may have a Japanese name, but they were first cultivated in China between 1000 and 1100 AD—and China currently remains one of the world’s top two producers.

Firm, crisp, and pleasantly sweet, sugar snap peas are a combination of sno peas and English peas and are an excellent source of fiber and vitamins A and C.

Cut into recipe-ready pieces, Cleaned and Sliced Leeks have a mild onion flavor with a hint of garlic.

To speed up the cooking process for this recipe and minimize the amount of oil needed, Chinese eggplant and sugar snap peas are steamed first to make them tender. A quick sauté or stir fry of the ginger, long hot pepper, leeks and shiitake mushrooms, the addition of the steamed eggplant and snap peas, and a final dousing with the savory Szechuan sauce results in a glazed mélange of fresh from the garden goodness.

“Gong Hay Fat Choy” is Cantonese for wishing you a Happy Lunar New Year filled with happiness and prosperity.

Szechuan Eggplant or Chinese Eggplant in Brown Sauce
Image of Ingredients
2 large Chinese eggplants, cut into pieces the size of the sugar snap peas
½ pound (about 25) sugar snap peas, tail ends snipped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
½ long hot pepper, diced
10 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms, (hydrated, and sliced)

1 teaspoon Szechuan or black peppercorns, toasted and crushed
1/2 cup soy or tamari sauce
2 tablespoons garlic chili paste
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
2 drops liquid smoke

Image of vegetables steaming

Place the Chinese eggplant and sugar snap peas on a steamer rack in a large pot, with the bottom filled with water. Steam over medium-high heat for 10 minutes and then test for tenderness. If necessary, continue steaming, then remove the vegetables from the pot and set them aside.

Image of sauce

To make the sauce, first, toast the peppercorns over medium heat in a dry skillet for at least 1 minute. Crush the peppercorns and place in a small bowl. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the bowl and whisk everything together. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, sauté the ginger and long hot pepper over medium heat for about 1 minute with the vegetable and sesame oils. Add the leeks and the mushrooms and stir the mixture for about 3 minutes until the leeks and mushrooms are tender.

Image of eggplant sauteeing in pan
Add the steamed eggplant and snap peas to the pan and stir to combine everything. Pour the sauce over the mixture, stir until all the vegetables are covered, and continue cooking another 10 to 12 minutes with the lid on. Turn off the heat.

Image of Szechuan Eggplant
Transfer to a bowl or platter to serve on its own, or place the mixture over some rice, quinoa, or spaghetti-type noodles (to symbolize longevity, happiness, and good luck for Chinese New Year).

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