If you are from Seattle, I’m just assuming you’ve eaten at Bamboo Garden. I seriously have dreams about the vegetarian Chinese dishes at this kosher restaurant in Downtown Seattle, right near the Space Needle (which I still have not been in to). My family practically lives at Bamboo, partially because there are only a few kosher options in Seattle, but also because it is the best vegetarian Chinese food we have ever had. When you sit down at a booth, you are handed a massive menu and you might not know where to begin. If it’s lunch time, check out the lunch specials because they are all great. But if you want to really dig in, I always suggest the “daily soup,” which is a thick and delicious corn soup. Add a little sticky rice and Sriracha hot sauce and you will be in heaven. But for the main course, you just have to get the sichuan eggplant. You will completely forget that you are eating a vegetarian dish. Tip: If you don’t like spicy foods, you must be sure to tell them you want it mild. Since I’m all the way across the country in New York and can’t have the sichuan eggplant whenever I crave it, I finally decided it was time to make my own version, even if it would never be as good as the original.
Sichuan Eggplant Ingredients
4 cups (2-3) Japanese eggplant
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes (these are in place of 1 Tbsp chili bean paste, which I couldn’t find)
3 tsp freshly grated ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp corn starch (+1 Tbsp water)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
4 scallions, roughly chopped
How beautiful is this Japanese eggplant?!? It such a pleasure to cook with a new vegetable that I’d never worked with before. I’ve eaten my fair share of Japanese eggplant, so it was finally great to get my hands on it in the kitchen. I began the process by making the mise en place. I set up four small bowls near the stove and prepared the mixtures. 1. vegetable stock, sugar and soy sauce. 2. red pepper flakes (or chili bean paste), garlic, and ginger. 3. cornstarch and water. 4. scallions and vinegar.
I placed the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until the oil was almost smoking. If you have a wok, that would be even better. I added the eggplant and sautéed until soft, allowing it to sit for a few seconds each time I mixed so the skin could brown and blister. If you find that the oil is absorbed but the eggplant is not ready, you can add more oil to the pan.
Then I added the chicken stock mixture, turned the heat to medium-low and simmered for 90 seconds. I added the cornstarch and stirred until the sauce thickened a bit.
Last came the scallion and vinegar and I cooked for 15 more seconds just to take away the harsh flavors a bit. And that was it. I was actually worried about the vinegar, but it turned out perfectly. Okay, fine, it wasn’t Bamboo Garden sichuan eggplant, but it was pretty darn good.
To bump up the spice factor, I added some Sriracha after the eggplant was plated. I was practically licking my plate!