Silky Ma Po Eggplant
This is one of my favorite dishes, made easy for the home cook. If you like a bolder, funkier flavor just add a little more toban djan (chile bean sauce). This superb all-in-one meal is a great way to use a small amount of meat to accent a vegetable. I adore eggplant and I make this dish all the time as part of a multicourse Asian spread or just by itself alongside a bowl of steamed white rice. The eggplants can be roasted, grilled or sautéed on one side. The idea is simply to cook them through and pour the sauce over them…and enjoy.
Ma Po Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
- 1 pound ground pork, preferably from the shoulder
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or other Asian chile sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- Six 8-ounce Asian eggplants, halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil, plus more for brushing
- Kosher salt
- 2/3 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 1/4 cup dry sake
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon chile-bean sauce, such as Lee Kum Kee Toban Djan
- 3 scallions, minced, plus thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- Steamed rice, for serving
In a large bowl, mix the pork with the vinegar, sambal oelek, cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
Preheat the broiler and position the rack 8 inches from the heat. Brush the eggplants with peanut oil and season with salt. Arrange the eggplants cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and broil for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once, until lightly charred and tender.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the chicken stock with the sake, sugar, sesame oil, chile bean paste and remaining 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. In a wok or large skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon of peanut oil until shimmering. Add the minced scallions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry over high heat until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the pork and stir-fry until no pink remains, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock mixture and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Arrange the eggplants cut side up on a platter and spoon the pork on top. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions and serve with steamed rice.