Eggplants (or aubergine) are extremely delicious when cooked well. The key is cooking them till silky soft. That's when the flavours really shine (with the help of well-balanced seasoning). This Chinese eggplant with minced pork is rich in umami flavour, all thanks to the caramelised savoury seasoning with a touch of sweetness. A common dish on Chinese dinner tables and for me, a nostalgic one.
Not only is this a very easy dish to make, it only takes 30 minutes from start to finish. Simple ingredients done well is what home-cooking is all about!
Absolutely fantastic without any pork mince added, but with it, the dish sings. Plus, the added protein makes this a complete meal with just a side of rice!
- Dark soy sauce is 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 is a Chinese rice wine that adds fantastic flavours to both the minced pork and the eggplant! Substitute: dry sherry.
- Brown sugar is 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
One important step to making this truly delicious and omg I need to have more is getting the eggplant golden on the outside. This caramelisation means flavour!
Skip the frying and use the grill/broil
The way I was taught (and the traditional method) is by using a good amount of oil and frying it in a wok. Unless your wok or frying pan is reallllly large, this usually takes 2 - 3 batches.
Instead of going through all that trouble, I find it so much easier by simply grilling/broiling the eggplants until golden. The result is the same, using much less oil (and avoiding potential mess!) in the process.
Aside from the flavour benefits of caramelised eggplants, this step (whether frying or grilling/broiling), takes out the excess moisture within the eggplants.
This humble yet luxurious dish, through this cooking method, transforms and gives the eggplant a velvety and almost creamy texture. This is only achieved once excess moisture is out of the equation. So never skip this step!
Once the grilled eggplant is in the pan with the rest of the super flavourful ingredients, you want to cook on medium-low heat for a good 6 or so minutes.
This does 2 important things. One, it cooks out any more excess moisture (that were not taken care of in the grilling/broiling process). Two, and more importantly, this step will caramelise the soy sauces, the brown sugar and all that flavour sips into and coats the eggplants. So delicious.
The subtle oniony flavour of spring onions (aka scallions) brightens the overall dish up.
The Chinese eggplant with minced pork is all about that rich, caramelised umami flavours. For those who like a bit of heat, feel free to toss in some thinly sliced 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
More delicious Asian recipes to try
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.