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Julie's Recipe: Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, Guilin, China

Julie's Recipe: Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, Guilin, China


One of our favorite dishes in China is Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, but it's hit or miss when we order it. Chinese food tends to be greasy. Greasy is an understatement; more like "oil soaked", with vegetables literally drowning in a pool of spicy chili oil. While in Guilin, I perfected my own, healthier version of Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, using just enough oil to prevent eggplant from sticking.

I learned that you have to soak eggplant in salted water for 15 minutes before cooking and then coat it with a thin layer of corn starch to prevent it from soaking in all the oil. Here's my simple, easy recipe:


  • 1 eggplant, sliced on a diagonal and soaked underwater for 15 minutes in salted water (about 1 teaspoon salt)
  • Cornstarch
  • Soy sauce (lighter works better)
  • Sugar, approx. 2 teaspoons
  • Vegetable or peanut oil
  • Minced ginger and garlic
  • Szechwan chili sauce (usually can find in a jar)


  1. After soaking the eggplant, pat dry and coat with a thin layer of cornstarch. 
  2. Heat the wok on medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil after the wok is hot.
  3. Lay cornstarch-coated eggplant slices on the bottom of the wok without overlapping. Brown both sides, flipping once. After about 5-7 minutes, when the eggplant turns soft, transfer to a plate. Cook the remaining batch(es). Turn the heat down if the wok starts to smoke.
  4. After all eggplant is grilled and the wok is cleared, coat the wok again with a teaspoon of oil and fry the ginger and garlic. Stir often to prevent it from sticking. 
  5. Whisk soy sauce, sugar and about 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl until cornstarch dissolves. Add as much szechwan chili sauce as you like, along with the fried ginger and garlic. 
  6. Put the eggplant back into the skillet. Turn to medium heat.
  7. Pour the sauce over the eggplant. Stir until eggplant is coated and the sauce thickens (about 2 minutes). Transfer to a flat dish or bowl and serve with rice or noodles.
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