I absolutely love eggplant! And nothing is better than tender, juicy braised eggplant. This Chinese-inspired braised eggplant recipe is one of my all time favorite side dish recipes. You heard that right, it is an all time favorite!
This tender braised eggplant is simmered in a flavorful chili garlic sauce that is then thickened and served alongside the eggplant. In addition to being absolutely delicious, this recipe is also gluten free, vegetarian, egg free, dairy free, nut free, and vegan.
What is braising?
What is braising? Braising is a cooking technique where you first cook food in a dry environment then you finish it off in a liquid environment. The technique of braising is most commonly used for meats but you can also braise vegetables like eggplant, cabbage, and carrots. Braising vegetables makes them exceedingly moist and tender while also ensuring that they do not fall apart.
In this recipe we braise our eggplant. We start off by sautéing our eggplant in a hot pan for a few minutes per side. After that we fill the pan with a delicious chili bean sauce and let the eggplant simmer in the sauce for a longer period of time.
Why do you braise eggplant?
Why do you braise eggplant? Eggplant is a great candidate for braising because it is a vegetable that you want to be tender and juicy when it is done cooking. Eggplant is also a good candidate for braising because it soaks up sauce better than many other vegetables. Braised eggplant is one of the most tender, flavorful vegetable dishes I have had in my life.
What is the difference between Chinese eggplant and Italian eggplant?
What is the difference between Chinese eggplant and Italian eggplant. If you have seen both types of eggplant before then the answer might be obvious. However, many people have only seen one type of eggplant or the other. Chinese eggplant is long and thin whereas Italian eggplant is short and fat.
It is common for a Chinese eggplant to be up to a foot in length and have cross sections that are around 2 inches in diameter. Italian eggplant, on the other hand, tends to be closer to half a foot in length and has cross sections that are closer to 4 or 5 inches in diameter.
What is Chinese black bean sauce?
What is Chinese black bean sauce? Chinese black bean sauce is a hugely flavorful sauce that is made from fermented black soybeans. It is also common for the fermented black soybeans to be combined with other pungent elements such as chilies or garlic. If you cannot find pure black bean sauce you should be on the lookout for chili bean sauce or black bean and garlic sauce.
Chinese black bean sauce does not contain the type of black beans you might first think of if you cook a lot of Mexican, Caribbean, or Central American food. These black soybeans are an entirely different type of bean and they are generally fermented before being incorporated into other dishes.
Gluten free black bean sauce
Where can you find gluten free black bean sauce? I generally use Sun Luck brand black bean garlic sauce which is labeled as gluten free on the packaging. I have never had an adverse reaction to this product, but as always you should do your own research before trying a new gluten free product.
Braised eggplant with black bean sauce
- 2 Chinese eggplant
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 stalks green onion
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
Black bean braising sauce
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth (sub 3/4 cups water)
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup gluten free tamari or soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp black bean garlic sauce
- 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
- 1 tsp ginger powder (sub 1 tsp minced ginger)
- 1/4 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
- 1 tbsp water (for cornstarch slurry)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch (for cornstarch slurry)
- Mix all of the ingredients for the black bean braising sauce other than the water and cornstarch then set the black bean sauce to the side.
- Slice the eggplant into slices that are around 1 inch thick. Also slice the green onions into thin slices.
- Preheat the vegetable oil over medium high heat in a large, flat pan. Add the eggplant slices and cook them for 3 minutes per side. The eggplant slices should be lightly browned on both sides.
- Lower the heat to medium low then add the black bean braising sauce to the pan. Simmer the eggplant in the braising sauce for 20-25 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices occasionally.
- Combine the cornstarch and the water in a separate dish to make the cornstarch slurry. Add the cornstarch slurry into the braising sauce and cook the eggplant for another minute or two until the sauce thickens.
- Top the braised eggplant with sesame seeds and green onions.
Additions for Chinese braised eggplant
- Chilies. If you like your food spicy you should add some chilies into your black bean sauce. I generally add around 6 minced birds eye chilies to my pan at the same time I add the black bean sauce to the eggplant.
- Basil. Basil goes really well with eggplant. I sometimes add a few leaves of Thai basil to my pan when the eggplant is 3-5 minutes away from being done. If you cannot find Thai Basil then Italian basil also works.
- Japanese eggplant. Japanese eggplant works just as well as Chinese eggplant. In fact, some large supermarkets seem to label Chinese and Japanese eggplant interchangeably.
Other recipes you will love
If you are looking for another Chinese-inspired vegetable side you should check out our recipe for Chinese green beans with chili garlic sauce!