I'm really excited to share this fantastic eggplant recipe with you today! This was inspired by my sister's favourite eggplant dish from one of the Hongkong-style restaurants in Sydney, and is absolutely delicious. One bite into that golden shell of crisp tempura-style batter reveals a soft and silky eggplant filling that is so light it simply melts in your mouth. Then, you get these bits of savoury black beans and the spiciness of the XO sauce that melds together in your mouth with the creamy eggplant. These are so addictive (and deceptively filling on the tummy as well, as I discovered many eggplants later).
The black beans used here are also know as douchi, or Chinese fermented black beans, which is the same as what you would find in the popular dish "Beef in Black Bean Sauce". These beans come in dried form, sold in packets, or in jars. As they are rather salty with a strong, pungent and somewhat smoky flavour, only a small amount is needed for this dish. I've used bottled XO sauce here, although you can make your own if you have dried scallops (I ran out) and dried shrimp. If you're not familiar with XO sauce, it is a spicy sauce containing dried scallops and shrimp, and is used in Chinese cuisine either as a condiment or in cooking. A small jar of it is pretty pricey, depending on which brand you buy. You can also use Salmon XO sauce if you like, which I reckon has a stronger flavour than regular XO sauce.
This recipe is for all eggplant lovers out there (but even if you aren't, you will love this!). The eggplant fritters themselves are so crispy and tasty, they also make a great snack or appetizer. Yum Yum!
Crispy Eggplant with Black Beans and XO Sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 bird's eye chillies, chopped (or substitute with dried chilli flakes)
1 scallion, chopped
2 tsp Chinese salted black beans
2 tsp XO sauce
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup self-raising flour
2 tbsp rice flour
2 tbsp cornflour
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup cold water
Peel the eggplant and cut them into batons - 1/2 inch thick and 2 1/2 inches long. Soak them in salted water for 20 minutes, then drain and pat the eggplant all over until they are dry. Meanwhile, combine the batter ingredients in a bowl to form a thick batter.
Heat up 2-3 cups vegetable oil in a wok on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, dip the eggplant pieces in the batter, shake off excess and lower them into the oil. Fry for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper. You can double-fry them for extra crispiness by frying them again on high heat for 1 minute until lightly browned.
In a clean wok, heat up 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Add garlic and chillies and fry briefly, followed by scallions, black beans and XO sauce. Drizzle wine around the wok to deglaze, and toss until the ingredients are quite dry. Turn off the heat and add the deep-fried eggplant, and toss quickly to coat. Sprinkle a pinch of salt to taste. Dish out immediately onto a plate and serve with steamed white rice.
To get featherlight and crispy eggplants, make sure the oil is very hot before putting the eggplants in. Otherwise, the eggplant will absorb the oil like a sponge and end up oily and soggy.