The recipe consists of three parts: seasoning and marinating the ground pork, pan-frying the eggplants and braising the meat after browning.
Marinating the pork doesn’t take long. Do it as the first step and, by the time the eggplants are cooked through, the meat should have soaked up the flavors. But although the marinating time is short, it is important to use the correct spices and seasonings. Among them are Sichuan pepper and Chinese five-spice powder. For more about these ingredients, see the linked posts below.
Sichuan (Szechuan) pepper
Black pepper is Piper nigrum. Sichuan pepper is either red (Zanthoxylum simulans) or green (Zanthoxylum schinifolium), it is not hot, but it leaves a numbing and tingling sensation in the mouth.
What is Chinese five-spice powder?
Have you ever wondered why every time you buy Chinese five-spice powder, the flavor of the cooked dish is never exactly the same?
Asian eggplants, sweet with no trace of bitterness, are used here. They are split vertically into halves and each half is cut into portions before they are fried. Note that eggplants continue to cook in the residual heat after they are taken off the pan. Be careful to scoop them out of the oil before they turn mushy.
The remaining oil from the pan where the eggplants were fried is poured off leaving only a trace. The seasoned and marinated ground pork is spread in the hot pan and cooked with occasional stirring until browned.
The sauce, a mixture of starch, broth, soy sauce and sesame seed oil, is poured in. The pork cooks in the sauce until the sauce has thickened and lost its cloudy appearance. The rest is a matter of assembly.
Chinese-style eggplants with braised ground pork
- 250 grams ground pork
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns - toast in an oil-free pan before grinding
- ½ teaspoon five-spice powder
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon grated garlic
- 1 tablespoon grated onion
- ½ teaspoon pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 3 eggplants
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch - or potato or corn starch
- 1 cup bone broth - or water although the dish won't taste as rich
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce - (you may need more)
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
- toasted sesame seeds
- In a mixing bowl, mix together the ground pork, salt, ground Sichuan peppercorns, five-spice powder, grated ginger, garlic and onion, pepper flakes, oyster sauce and sugar. Set aside.
- Cut the eggplants into halves vertically, then cut each half into two to three equal portions.
- Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan.
- Fry the eggplants on both sides just until done.
- Scoop out the eggplants and lay on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Pour off the oil from the pan leaving only a tablespoonful.
- Reheat the oil and spread the ground pork mixture on the entire bottom of the pan.
- Cook the ground pork until well browned.
- Stir together the starch, broth, soy sauce and sesame seed oil.
- Pour the starch mixture into the browned pork and cook until the sauce is thick and clear.
- Taste the sauce. If too bland for you, drizzle in a tablespoon or so of soy sauce.
- Arrange eggplants on a plate and spoon the ground pork over them.
- Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve at once.