Eggplant (or brinjal/aubergine) is one of my favourite vegetables, often in the form of tempura, in curries, or with a sweet spicy soy, and sometimes braised with minced pork and salted fish. This time, I cooked it in a claypot with minced pork and pineapples, and some chilli oil. The eggplant is simmered in the sweet and savoury gravy for a few minutes until they are just tender. Any longer than that and it will turn to mush. The texture of the eggplant is soft and silky, tender yet firm enough to hold its shape, and the minced pork is packed with the tasty flavours from the gravy. Served with a big bowl of steamed jasmine rice, this dish is all you need for a satisfying meal.
You can just cook this in a regular pan/pot if you don't own a claypot. However, the claypot is able to retain the heat and moisture better, and you can serve it directly in the claypot from the stove to the table, bubbling hot. It seems to make food taste better too! A basic chinese claypot is pretty inexpensive, and you can find them in most Asian supermarkets. You can use them for soups, stews, braises, rice, noodles and so on. If not, try this simple eggplant recipe that is quick and easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. It's best to use fresh pineapple, but canned ones are fine too.
Claypot Eggplant with Pork and Pineapple Gravy
400g purple eggplant, partially peeled lengthways (in stripes) and cut into 8cm lengths, 2cm thick
100g minced pork (or substitute with chicken if you prefer)
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced onion
1 tbsp chilli oil
1 tsp ground bean sauce (optional)
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
3 tbsp diced pineapple pieces
1 scallion, chopped, for garnish
2 bird's eye chillies, chopped (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
2-3 tsp brown sugar (or to taste)
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 tbsp light soy sauce (or substitute with fish sauce)
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp chicken stock powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp thick caramel (thick dark soy)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sesame oil
Dash of pepper
1/2 tsp cornflour
Combine pork with marinade and leave for 20 minutes.
Soak the eggplant in salted water for 5 minutes, then drain well and pat dry with a paper towel. Shallow fry in about 1 cup vegetable oil on high heat for 2-3 minutes until the eggplant starts to soften slightly but still hold its shape. Don't overcook the eggplant. Remove and drain well on kitchen paper.
Heat up the claypot on medium-high heat and add 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil. Fry garlic, ginger and onion for 30 seconds, then add the chilli oil and bean sauce and stir briefly. Add pork and fry until browned and cooked. Don't mash up the pork too much. Drizzle the chinese cooking wine around the meat. Add the diced pineapple and sauce ingredients and stir to mix into the meat. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Then add the deep-fried eggplant and gently mix it with the meat. Stir in the bird's eye chillies if using. Cover with lid and simmer on medium heat for 2 minutes until eggplant is just tender. Gently stir the sides and bottom of the pot to make sure the food doesn't burn or stick to the surface. Add a little water if the sauce dries up. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve immediately with steamed jasmine rice.