The first meal I ever had in New York's Chinatown was a garlic eggplant dish at a restaurant whose name I can't remember. It was phenomenal, and ever since I've been trying to come up with something similar. This is the best this North Dakotan has come up with so far. I've been treating my garden eggplants with love and care, and decided to take another shot at imitating that meal.
1 large eggplant, cut in roughly one inch cubes
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 green hot chili pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. sake (if you don't have sake on hand, try a white wine)
1/2 cup shiitake mushroom broth*
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 tbsp. tamari or other good soy sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
salt and black pepper
fresh chives and sesame seeds for garnish
* The shiitake broth is the liquid left over from rehydrating dried shiitake mushrooms. Vegetable stock or another mushroom broth is a fine substitute.
1. In a (preferably non-stick) frying pan, fry the eggplant in about a quarter inch of canola oil. If you think that's a little much, use less oil or bake the eggplant. I like a little greasy goodness now and then. Fry eggplant, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper as it rests.
2. In a bowl, combine tamari, shiitake broth, sugar, sake, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil and 1 tbsp. sesame oil in the pan (less if there is some residual oil from the eggplant). Add onion, ginger, and garlic, and stir-fry until lightly browned. Add green chili, and cook for another half minute.
4. Add fried eggplant, followed by tamari-broth mixture. Bring to a simmer, and remove from heat. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds and chives, and a healthy drizzle of sesame oil. Rice is great to soak up the extra eggplant sauce.