This Chinese eggplant with minced pork dish is umami-rich with a touch of sweetness. The key is grilling the eggplants till lightly golden then cooking them in a flavour-packed meat and garlic mixture till silky soft. That's when the flavours really shine (with the help of well-balanced seasoning).
This easy Chinese eggplant recipe takes just 30 minutes from start to finish. Simple ingredients done well is what home-cooking is all about!
A simple Chinese eggplant dish
This is a quick and simple eggplant recipe with a Chinese cuisine flavour profile. Unlike the famous fish fragrant eggplant dish originated from Sichuan, this recipe uses fewer ingredients without compromising on flavour.
You can easily leave out the pork, making this dish a plant based one and it'll still be totally delicious.
To make this dish gluten-free, simply use gluten-free soy sauce.
- Eggplant - can use either Japanese eggplants (aka Asian eggplants) or just the regular ones like what I'm using when shooting this recipe. The biggest difference, aside from the size, is that Japanese eggplants tend to taste slightly sweeter. You can find Japanese eggplants at most Asian grocery stores.
- Dark soy sauce - richer in flavour and less salty than normal soy sauce. Dark soy sauces are just normal soy sauces that have had a longer fermentation time, giving them the extra rich, umami flavour and a darker colour. Can substitute for normal soy sauce, just reduce the amount to 1.5 tablespoon from 2 tablespoon due to the higher salt content. Always go for a high-quality dark soy sauce, head on over to my Asian Pork Meatballs recipe where I've provided a couple of recommendations under 'Tips to make this perfect every time' section.
- Shaoxing wine - Chinese cooking wine that adds fantastic flavours to both the minced pork and the eggplant! Substitute: dry sherry.
- Brown sugar - preferred over white as the added molasses gives the dish more depth in flavour!
- Pork mince - can be substituted with chicken mince if preferred.
Step by step instructions
Making this dish is quite straight forward and takes very little effort all thanks to the oven!
Skip the frying and grill/broil in the oven instead
The way I was taught (and the traditional method) to get caramelisation and creating creamy texture on the eggplants is by shallow frying. This usually takes 2 - 3 batches.
Instead of going through all that trouble, I find it so much easier to just grill (broil) the eggplants in the oven. The result is the same, using much less oil (and avoiding potential mess!) in the process.
Aside from the flavour benefits of caramelised eggplants, taking out excess moisture is key to achieving a rich, creamy texture.
Some people like to soak the eggplants in salt water before cooking mainly to help get rid of bitterness. I've never found the need to do that since the eggplants sold these days are generally quite mild and very rarely bitter.
To begin, cut the eggplants into bite size pieces, toss it through a little oil then grill/broil in a single layer for about 15 minutes, up to 20 minutes.
Whilst the eggplants are in the oven, saute whole garlic until lightly golden in a pan or wok over medium to high heat. Then add in pork mince (ground pork) and brown.
Deglaze with Chinese cooking wine and once it has reduced by half, add in soy sauce, sugar and white pepper.
The eggplants should be lightly golden by now. Take it out of the oven and add the eggplant straight into the pork mixture. Now, cook on medium-low heat for 6 or so minutes stirring occasionally.
Stir frying on low heat for 5 to 6 minutes will achieve 2 important things. One, it cooks out any more excess moisture (that were not taken care of in the oven). Two, and more importantly, this step will caramelise the soy sauces, the brown sugar and all that flavour will sip into and coat the eggplants. So delicious.
To serve, sprinkle some finely sliced spring onions (green onion) to brighten up the dish. Optionally, drizzle in a little sesame oil and add a sprinkle of sesame seeds for a nutty and earthy flavour.
Serve with rice and simply sauteed Asian greens for a complete meal. Otherwise, serve as a side dish to a feast!
The Chinese eggplant with minced pork dish is all about that rich, caramelised umami flavours. For those who like a bit of heat, feel free to toss in some fresh red chilli, chilli flakes or dried red chilli with garlic at the start.
Tips for making this perfect every time
- Grill/broil the eggplants until golden. This is easily done in 15 minutes at 220°C/430°F. For even deeper flavours, flip the eggplant pieces over after 15 minutes and grill for an extra 5 minutes.
- Keep the garlic whole and fry them until golden before adding pork mince into the pan. By the time this mega flavoursome Chinese eggplant with minced pork is complete, the garlic will become creamy soft and will taste sooo good. The garlic flavour will be subtle so don't worry about garlic breath! (and even if so, so what? it's delicious)
- Make sure that the eggplants and the soy sauces have turned caramelly and deep in colour before turning the heat off. The richer the colour, the more flavoursome this dish will be! So keep stirring (for even cooking) but remember to keep the heat to medium-low. Don't want to burn the soy sauces!
Good to know (FAQs)
Nope! The soy sauces alone will season this dish perfectly. There is also no need to salt and pat the eggplants dry (drawing out excess liquids) here as the grilling/broiling process will do that for you!
As tempting as it may be, don't do it! Eggplants naturally contain a lot of water. It may look dry but once you take a bite, you'll know what I mean. The eggplants will taste silky and creamy, not dry at all! Also, the dish is not supposed to be a saucy one too.
Made this Chinese eggplant with minced pork recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Chinese eggplant with minced pork
- 2 large eggplants (about 550g/1¼lbs each) diced into 2.5-4 cm/1-1.5 inch pieces
- 250 g /9oz pork mince substitute: chicken mince
- 5 cloves garlic peeled, whole (note 1)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (note 2)
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine substitute: dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar substitute: white sugar (note 3)
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 3 tablespoon oil any
- 1 spring onion/scallion finely sliced
- freshly steamed rice
- Toss eggplant pieces through 2 tablespoon of oil and spread it out in a single layer on a large, lined baking tray. Grill/broil at 220°C/430°F for 15 minutes or until edges are golden. No need to flip halfway through.
- With 5 minutes left of grilling/broiling, get started on the remaining ingredients. Fry garlic on medium heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on a large skillet/non-stick pan on the stove.
- Once the garlic is lightly golden, about 2 minutes, add pork mince into the pan and saute on high heat. About 1 minute or until brown but not yet cooked through.
- Add shaoxing wine, allow it to reduce by half then add soy sauces, sugar and white pepper. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly for about 1 minute.
- Eggplant should be golden by now, remove from oven and add it straight into the pan with the pork mince sauce. Cook on medium-low heat for about 6 minutes, stirring every minute. Do not add any water at any point! (note 4) Remove from heat.
- Sprinkle finely sliced spring onions and serve with freshly steamed rice.