I drive five miles to work in the morning and it takes me about a half hour. Today when I was driving home it hit me that there are about 20 Asian restaurants on my route. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean. Los Angeles has such a wonderfully diverse population, there may be a restaurant from every country on the planet here. So I was thinking I hadn’t cooked any Chinese food lately and mentally ran through my recipe index. I was thinking about this pork and eggplant dish and suddenly I really wanted to smell the sesame oil that is added at the end. So I went to the market and bought an eggplant and some pork tenderloin. I could hardly wait to get home and get started.
I prepped all of the ingredients first. This is the most time consuming part, but necessary because the cooking time is about 5 minutes. There is no time to be cutting, chopping or mixing in there.
For my first photo I used a 2×3-inch bottomless ring mold. I packed the cooked chow in the mold pretty firmly and slid the mold up and off. Voila! A slick presentation. I had those stainless steel ring molds custom made about 20 years ago, but I think you can buy them in cooking stores now. Or pack your chow into a bowl and upend it on your plate if you want to go this route. Otherwise, spoon some on your plate or bowl and you’re good to go. See the next photo.
This dish has the meaty flavor of the pork along with the rich softness of the eggplant. The sauce has the wonderful Chinese flavor notes of soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine and sugar along with the minced aromatics of ginger and garlic chile sauce. And then you make your olfactory nerves sing with joy when you sprinkle on the rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Shut your eyes and inhale. Oh man. Mmmm.
Chinese Pork and Eggplant Chow
Before you start cooking, assemble all of your prepared ingredients.
1 pound pork, boneless chops or tenderloin, cut into ¼-inch by 2-inch strips
1 egg white
½ tablespoon cornstarch
½ tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably peanut oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound of purple globe eggplant, skin on, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sherry, rice or white wine
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
½ tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably peanut oil
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chile with garlic sauce
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
6 green onions, sliced thin diagonally
Seasoned rice wine vinegar
1. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place cut side down on paper plate. Microwave on high for 6 minutes (7 minutes for a really big one). It should be not raw, but not mushy. It will finish cooking in the pan.
2. Cool eggplant enough to handle and cut into 1-inch cubes. Discard large clumps of seeds.
3. Beat egg white in a medium bowl until frothy, then add the ½ tablespoon cornstarch, ½ tablespoon oil, salt and mix thoroughly. Stir the pork into this mixture to coat and set aside.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in wok or large pan. Add the pork mixture and fry until no longer pink and starting to have golden edges. Drain on paper towels.
5. In a dry wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil, then add celery, ginger and chile sauce, and stir until sizzling. Add the eggplant and pork and stir until hot.
6. Add the sauce mixture and chicken broth and stir until boiling. Stir the cornstarch mixture if it has settled. Tilting the pan slightly, push the solids to the upper side and add half of the cornstarch mixture to the sauce. Reduce the heat and stir sauce until thickened. Add a little more cornstarch mixture if needed. Stir thickened sauce back into solids and heat through.
7. Spoon onto serving plates. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon sesame oil or more to taste. Don’t leave this part out. The vinegar and sesame oil are an integral part of the taste of this dish. Garnish with sliced green onions. Serve.