Back Home…Spicy Eggplant


Okay, I’m back. I went to New Jersey this past week to visit my friends and my church. So I kind of abandoned this blog…kind of…but trust me when I say that I didn’t stop thinking about it, even though I didn’t update. Old friends, old feelings, old places…nostalgia and more nostalgia. I sure did miss my friends, but there were some things that I guess I had to finish, things that I didn’t even know were left unfinished. I’m so behind on posting though. I went to a couple of restaurants while I was down there, but shame on me, I didn’t have my camera with me, so not much to report back. 😦 I’ll be sure to have my camera handy next time.

And now for the spicy eggplant. You see, eggplant is one of those things, like coconut I suppose. There are extreme lovers, and extreme haters. It is one odd vegetable. Cook it a certain way and I can swear that it tastes almost like meat, with its tender, hearty texture. It also acts like a sponge. Try something, slice up some eggplant, pour some oil into a heated pan, toss the slices in, and watch the oil just disappear. Now add some more, where the heck did it all go? You can forgo the experiment and not waste food if you’d like. Just believe me. So use a light hand on the oil when you’re making this dish.

Spicy Eggplant

2 lbs eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, diced
10 Sichuan Peppercorns
3 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. red chili sauce, with oil (老干妈) *I love this stuff, goes well with everything! 😀
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
salt to taste
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

In a wok, heat the oil on medium high. Add the chili sauce, peppercorns, and fry for a few minutes, until the fragrance really gets to you (I always sneeze). Then add the garlic and eggplant. Stir fry, until the eggplant is lightly browned, although don’t worry about the coloring so much, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, soy sauce, and salt. Cook until the tomatoes break down, another 5-6 minutes. Before serving, mix in the cilantro.

Easy side dish to meatier Chinese dishes, reduce the amount of chili sauce to make a milder dish.

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Add some spice to your life…Cumin Pork

Okay, I didn’t mean it literally. Although, if you have recently added some spiciness in your life, good for you! 😉 For the rest of us, the kick in Szechuan dishes is quite enough.

Traditionally, and typically found in Szechuan Chinese restaurants, cumin “meat” dishes are full of heat and numbness. The numbness that I’m speaking of here comes from Szechuan peppercorns, a mouthful of those babies could probably get you through your wisdom teeth extraction. Who knows, maybe give you a spice-induced high while you’re at it? The meat can be chicken, beef, pork, or lamb, although the last one is the most popular and pairs best with cumin. All the flavors explode on your palate all at the same time, competing for dominance. Best to have lots of water and rice on hand, as well as some “neutral” dishes such as simple greens. I added broccoli for the color and also for nutrition. Gotta eat your vegetables. 😀

Cumin Pork

(makes 4 ravenous people [Ian] servings or 6 normal people servings :))

1 lb pork tenderloin (you could easily substitute beef, chicken, lamb, or even firm tofu)
2 Tbsp. corn starch
2 Tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns
3 Tbsp. cumin seeds, or 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
Note: See how all the spice is in tablespoons? Not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, don’t be scared either. 😛

3 Tbsp. oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Chinese rice wine
1 large onion, diced
1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets (again, you can substitute any vegetable or omit)
1 Tbsp. cumin, ground (optional, for the extra kick)
1 Tbsp. chili sauce, with oil (老干妈 “Old Grandma” brand preferably)
Salt to taste

Cut meat into very thin slices, about 1/8 of an inch. This is most easily done when the meat is still semi-frozen.
Put all spices, except for the chili sauce and the optional cumin, into a pan. Toast on medium high for about 2 minutes, until you smell the aroma. (be careful, you may have a sneeze attack due to the chili pepper, no joke) Ground the toasted spices, I used mortar and pestle.
Rub the ground spices and corn starch into the meat slices until evenly distributed. Put it into the fridge and forget about it, 3 hours or more.

Heat the oil until hot, sweat the garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the meat, soy sauce, and rice wine. Stir fry the meat on medium high heat until cooked, about 6-7 minutes. Season to taste and place on a plate. Add the onions and broccoli to still hot wok or pan. Stir fry until cooked through but still crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the meat back to the wok, along with the chili sauce and extra ground cumin. Mix well and heat through.

Now dig in and prepare to be intoxicated! 🙂