Chinese Tofu & Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

My first savory post:

So, I kind of have special feelings for tofu. It’s not like we’re seeing each other exclusively; I fling with chicken on weekdays, and occasionally, a girl requires beef. Sometimes, when I get sick of tofu, tofu even understands and throws on a dirty outfit and pretends to be chicken!

Anyway, I love Chinese food.

The original recipe was from Serious Eats which was all right though slightly disappointing. I tweeked it with my changes, which made the dish taste less “Chinese”, perhaps (peas, really?), but also less salty and more well-rounded in texture and flavor. Fresh herbs make all the difference in this dish.

Chinese Tofu & Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

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Serves 4

2 pounds Chinese or Japanese eggplant (about 4 small) cut into 2-inch chunks

2 teaspoons rice vinegar
3/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon black bean paste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 whole cloves garlic, smashed with the back of a knife, plus 4 more whole cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 scallions, whites and greens thinly sliced and reserved separately
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 (12.3 ounce) box firm silken tofu, cut into 1-inch chunks

3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup peas

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Squeeze of lemon (optional)

small handful of chopped carrot sticks

Directions

Cut up eggplant, salt chunks, and let drain in a colander for at least 30 minutes. Rinse.

Place eggplant in a wok filled with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until eggplant is completely tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Combine vinegar, wine, and cornstarch and stir with fork until cornstarch is dissolved. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, paste, and sesame oil. Set aside.

Clean and dry wok. Add oil and whole garlic cloves. Heat over medium heat stirring and turning garlic cloves occasionally until light golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Discard whole cloves then increase heat to high and heat oil until smoking. Add sliced garlic and scallion whites. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly until fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Stir sauce to re-incorporate corn starch, then add to wok, stirring constantly. Add eggplant and tofu and fold gently to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, folding and stirring occasionally until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in peas, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. If you prefer it sweeter like I do, add honey. Remove from pan; top with scallion greens, cilantro, and carrot sticks and serve with rice. It performs best with a starch.

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