In 1985, I moved with my family to Hong Kong because of my father's job. It was a life-changing five-year experience that I will be grateful for forever - one that would irreversibly change my outook on the world, and food. The person who perhaps most impacted my view of food on a daily basis, was Ah-Hing, the Chinese woman who lived with us.
Ah-Hing became family, and the kitchen was her domain. Among many things I watched her make during the years, this quick, easy eggplant dish is one of the most familiar. She served it with a variety of other Chinese dishes, most often bok choy with freshly grated ginger, and tofu and scallions.
- 1 eggplant, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes (Ah-Hing used Chinese eggplant, but the conventional stuff works too)
- Sesame oil, to cover the bottom of the sauté pan (you can use olive oil if need be)
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 packet or cube of beef bouillon
Often, eggplant recipes call for salting to remove moisture. In this recipe you get to skip that step. You want that moisture to help cook the eggplant. Find a sauté pan that either has a lid or that you can cover tightly. Get the pan hot over medium heat, then add a thin layer of sesame oil to cover the bottom.
Press eight cloves of garlic and add to the pan. It may seem counterintuitive, but you don't want any color - not on the garlic. Not on the eggplant. Why? You want the eggplant to be soft and uniform in color and consistency. Also, that's the way Ah-Hing made it, and it was tasty, and we did what Ah-Hing said or we'd get in trouble, so you should too.
Cook the garlic for a minute or two minutes, just so it starts to turn transparent. Add eggplant cubes and toss so that the oil dresses them. From here on all you're going to do is season, add the bouillon, cover, and simmer for a half-hour. There's a cheat too. If you're really in a rush, you can add 1/8 of a cup of water, and it will cook faster.