Ma Po – Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

Spicy, stir-fried ginger and garlic pork is always delicious but takes on a whole new role when combined with eggplant in in this Ma Po Eggplant recipe.

Ma Po - Japanese Eggplant recipe

A member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) Japanese eggplants are related to tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. Japanese eggplant is classified botanically as Solanum melongena and is the Western name given to dozens of eggplant varieties. Japanese eggplants are long and slender with an oblong shape with a glossy purple-black skin that is thin enough not to require peeling before consumption. The skin color remains when cooked, unlike many other eggplant varieties. Their mild-flavoured, cream-coloured flesh is spongy and nearly seedless – in contrast to the bitter taste evident in many Western and Thai eggplant varieties.

The Ingredients

  • 1 pound minced pork
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or similar Asian chili / spicy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Six 8-ounce Asian eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil, plus more for brushing
  • Sea salt
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry cooking sake
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili bean sauce, such as Lee Kum Kee “Toban Djan
  • 3 scallions chopped, and thinly sliced scallions for the garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons peeled & chopped fresh ginger

Alternative: substitute half the pork mince for sliced tofu chunks

Serve with steamed rice

The Cooking Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix the pork with the vinegar, sambal oelek, cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
  3. Preheat the broiler and position the rack 8 inches from the heat.
  4. Brush the eggplants with peanut oil and season with salt.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. In a wok or large skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon of peanut oil until shimmering.
  8. Add the minced scallions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry over high heat until fragrant, 1 minute.
  9. Add the pork and stir-fry until no pink remains, 3 to 5 minutes.
  10. Add the chicken stock mixture and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
  11. Arrange the eggplants cut side up on a platter and spoon the pork on top.
  12. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions and serve with steamed rice.

Notes:

  • Eggplant skin contains ‘nasunin,’ a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that protects cell membranes of the brain from damage. Eggplants also contain vitamin C, potassium, folate and dietary fiber, particularly in the skin.
  • In Japan eggplants have long been an important part of the food culture. There is a famous proverb that speaks of this high esteem and reads, โ€œThe happiest omen for a New Year is first Mount Fuji, then the falcon, and lastly the eggplantโ€
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