Spicy, sweet and tangy Sichuan eggplant with plum sauce – just imagine slightly crispy stir-fried eggplant, red peppers and onions smothered in a garlicky plum sauce that sizzles your taste buds. It tastes like a restaurant specialty, but you can easily make it at home!
It’s good that I like eggplant, because here in Republic of Georgia where we’ve been living this past year, eggplant is always available in the markets. Georgia has an abundance of fresh local produce, and like most traditional countries, you only get what is in season. Kind of like a farmers market. There are a couple of big supermarkets that import fruits and veggies, but I always try to eat the seasonal produce. Because it tastes so much fresher.
That does mean that you have to go with what is available, so, like I said, it’s good I’m ok with eggplant. That’s probably why it features into quite a few Georgian dishes, too. Look for future posts where I will make some for you – Georgian food is unique and delicious.
This Sichuan eggplant with plum sauce is something that Jay really enjoys, so it has become a favorite. It all started when we were in Delhi, long ago. Yes, you read that right, Delhi! After 2 years of fantastic Indian food, we needed a break from eating it everyday.
So, we went to a Chinese restaurant in Connaught Place and had one of the most divine Chinese meals ever! Isn’t it funny how that happens? You might find a better Chinese meal in India than you would in Beijing… much like you can find utterly amazing Indian food in London that you don’t find in most of India. This version of Sichuan eggplant (or maybe you call it Szechuan?) was heavenly!
Let’s Make Sichuan Eggplant with Plum Sauce
Anyway, back to the eggplant… this dish is my version of that amazing Delhi Sichuan eggplant with plum sauce that we so fondly remember. It is quick and easy. A simple stir-fry of the eggplant, then garlic, peppers and onions…
Add soy sauce, plum sauce and spices…
Just a note: If you have not read other recipes on this site you may not know that, oddly enough, Jay is sort of allergic to garlic (of all things!) so I don’t generally use as much garlic as a recipe calls for… so feel free to add more garlic if you love garlic! When we were in India, one of my Indian lady friends was teaching me how to cook local dishes over several months. Inevitably, it would come to the time when she would add (usually a huge handful of) garlic cloves to the dish.
I’d reach out my hand and hold up one finger (in a “wait a minute” gesture) before she dumped all that garlic onto the cutting board to chop it. Then I’d pick out 1-2 small cloves and hand them to her… she’d raise her eyebrows practically to her hairline and shake her head, snicker, and proceed. That was about all the garlic Jay could handle, so eventually our reputation became known and they would tone down the garlic for us. We’d often go through the same thing when it came to those fiery hot little green chiles, too, as I am the one who has to limit my chile intake – spicy food can literally make me cry!
Speaking of eating one country’s food in another country… here in Republic of Georgia, I chose to make this Sichuan eggplant using local plum jam instead of traditional Chinese plum sauce, as the jam contains only two ingredients – fruit and sugar; the imported plum sauce here has other additives, so I decided to pass on it. However, there is always plum jam available here… so… If you follow these directions, the plum jam will make the resulting dish thick enough without adding any cornstarch or additional sugar to the sauce. If you use Chinese plum sauce, you may need to add some sugar and a cornstarch slurry.
Regardless, this recipe is something you can play around with… no need for exact measurements on this one! Serve with rice on the side, a second vegetable, or a salad, and it’s a very tasty meal. And on top of that, it’s good for you! This dish contains two purple foods, eggplant and plums, both of which contain anthocyanins – the natural purple pigmented flavonoids that make purple foods so nutritious! If you’d like to know more about the health benefits of purple foods, this article tells you all about it.
For The Record: Despite having prepared this dish numerous times, I have discovered that photographing Sichuan eggplant is really difficult! In addition to not having a great lighting set-up for photos in our apartment, the dish is so dark that it really doesn’t show up well… apologies! It does taste great, though… I promise! ?
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Spicy Sichuan Eggplant with Plum Sauce
- oil for frying
- 2 small to medium eggplant, cubed
- 1 small red bell pepper, cut into small strips
- 2-4 TBSP Chinese plum sauce or plum jam you may need more, adjust to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 TBSP finely julienne fresh ginger
- 1 TBSP soy sauce to taste you may need more… adjust as needed
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar (although any vinegar will do) any other mild vinegar will do
- 2-3 pinches red pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper to taste
- chopped green onions for garnish
- Cut eggplant into small cubes and cover with salted water, set aside to soak for 15 minutes
- While eggplant is soaking, prep additional veggies
- Add oil to large frying pan and heat on medium
- Drain eggplant and dry. When oil is hot, fry eggplant until translucent, browned and only slightly crispy
- Add red bell peppers, onions and garlic and continue frying. Do this rather quickly so the eggplant does not get overly dry
- Add vinegar and soy sauce and stir until coating the veggies and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated
- Add cayenne or red pepper flakes Red pepper flakes are prettier ?
- Add plum jam and stir, allowing a sauce to develop. You may need to add a bit of water, but don’t over do it. If the sauce is too thin, it can be thickened by dissolving a teaspoon of cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and adding that to the sauce, stirring until translucent and thickened.