8.29.16 Mapo Eggplant
If you read my blog with any regularity, you’ve probably surmised that I absolutely love shopping at our local farmer’s markets. It doesn’t matter how well stocked our CSA and home garden leave us; if we’re in town any given weekend, I’m there.
I’m not alone here. With the country’s largest producer-only farmer’s market downtown every Saturday, and many many other amazing markets across Madison (and Wisconsin for that matter), I often see many of my fellow Wisconsin food bloggers going just as market crazy as I am. I love it.
A couple of weekends ago, a few of these other bloggers and I met up to shop the market together. We bought all kinds of beautiful and tasty things (but this time of year, really, how could you not?). I myself was drawn in by the beautiful bunches of japanese eggplants piled high on so many stands. I love eggplant, but had never really cooked with these little guys before, something I quickly decided needed to be rectified, especially because I had the best idea of how to use them; a riff on one of my favorite Sichuan dishes of all time: mapo tofu.
I first had mapo tofu at a Sichuan restaurant in Taipei when we were traveling there a few years ago. I was hooked. The dish, as the name implies, is made with tofu which is simmered in a spicy sauce of fermented chile bean paste and ground pork. It’s basically amazing. And I figured a version using fried eggplant pieces in place of the tofu had the potential to be just as good, if not better. Which is how we got from those beautiful market eggplants to a big spicy bowl of mapo eggplant. I can verify that it was definitely a good decision. I think you’ll agree.
Doubanjiang (also sometimes spelled Toban Djan) is a spicy chinese fermented bean paste made from broad beans - I've found it easily at most asian grocery stores and some regular grocery stores as well. The Lee Kum Kee brand is easiest to find, and is what I typically use.
- 3 Tbsp canola oil, divided
- 1 lb small eggplants, chopped into 1/2" pieces
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 3 Tbsp doubanjiang
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- steamed white rice for serving
1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the eggplant pieces and cook, stirring periodically, until eggplant is soft and turning golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove eggplant from pan and set aside.
2. Add the remaining Tbsp of oil to the hot pan, and once heated, add the scallion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until soft and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the ground pork, and cook, breaking pork into small pieces, until it is completely browned and cooked through.
4. Stir together the doubanjiang, soy sauce, and 1/4 cup water and add it to the pan with the pork and cook for 1-2 minutes.
5. Combine the cornstarch with 2 Tbsp water, the add this to the pan, stirring until sauce begins to thicken slightly, about 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the eggplant until it is well mixed and well coated with the sauce. Garnish with sliced scallions and serve atop rice.