I was excited over the Asian vegetables we had, so I cooked Mapo Eggplant, a variation of the regular mapo tofu dish. We finally made the long drive to the Asian market, after months on quarantine. I couldn’t resist the vegetables, and mangoes I missed so much.
If you enjoy the classic, Chinese-influenced mapo tofu, you will like this one, too. There are stories of mapo’s origins online. This dish dates back to 1862, to a Chinese woman who cooked and sold this Sichuan specialty of tofu and meat. In present times, this recipe has many similarities to Filipino entrees with tastes that range from salty, tangy, bitter, sour, sweet to spicy. The cooking method is a basic stir-fry, also common in Philippine cooking.
Cooking with vegetables teaches us lessons. It’s about seizing the moment and using the vegetables before they turn and get withered. That’s what life is about. We should take this moment and use it with intent. It doesn’t matter if we’re sitting around the house That should not limit us. Anytime is a good time to be productive. Whether it’s calling up a friend by phone, writing a letter to a loved one, or doing an act of kindness for neighbors. This is all part of self-care. It’s what we need these days.
In this dish, eggplants and the ground meat do a perfect dance. You get the soft, mildly-sweet eggplant grazing on pan-seared ground pork. The thick soy sauce rounds up the entrée. If you want a bit of a kick, add the spice you like. Don’t forget to pour an entire serving on a mound of steaming rice, because this Mapo Eggplant reeks of sheer comfort.
- large skillet or wok
- 2 whole Asian eggplants, sliced vertically, in 2-inch strips
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder for the eggplant
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper for the eggplant
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, use 1 Tablespoon to cook eggplants, rest for stir-fry
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 whole onion sliced
- 2 stalks scallion whites chopped
- 1 knob (1-inch piece) fresh ginger, peeled, sliced thin
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- 2 Tablespoons thick soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 Tablespoons Shao xing rice wine
- 1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 cup broth
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 pieces Bird's Eye Chilies sliced
- 2 stalks scallion greens chopped
- steamed rice, for serving
To cook the eggplants:
- Slice the Asian eggplants vertically into 2-inch strips. Season with garlic powder and ground black pepper.In a skillet, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Over medium-high heat, pan sear the eggplants for 5 minutes till brown. Remove from skillet. Drain the eggplants on paper towels or parchment paper to remove grease. Set aside.
To cook the Mapo Eggplant:
- Using the same skillet or wok, pour the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. When oil is hot enough over medium-high heat, saute the garlic, onions, ginger, and scallion whites for 1 to 2 minutes.Add the ground pork. Stir around and let the pork brown for about 5 minutes.Pour the soy sauce, tomato paste, rice wine, hoisin sauce and broth. Blend well.Add the red pepper flakes and sesame oil. Add the bird's eye chilies. Season with salt and black pepper. Cover and continue cooking till meat is done for about 8 to 10 minutes.Return the cooked eggplant slices and blend gently into the mixture, being careful not to tear the vegetables Garnish with chopped scallion greens. Serve warm with rice.
- You can increase or decrease the spice level depending on your preference by adding or lessening the red pepper flakes and bird's eye chilies. Remember NOT to touch your face or eyes after slicing the chilies - wash your hands first.Pork renders its own fat when cooking, so I used lean ground meat and a small amount of oil when cooking this dish. Resist the urge to add more oil than what is indicated or the end result is a greasy mapo.I have cooked this dish using a combination of ground pork and beef and the results were just as delicious.
Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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