Make Ahead

Criss-cross Pan-fried Eggplant

April 21, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This recipe was almost called “Don’t Burn the Garlic Eggplant.” That is the most consistent ‘technique’ I’ve learned from my lovely mom about cooking. However, this week’s theme was a great opportunity for me to finally get this recipe that has a technique I always associate with her cooking. As a child, I remember watching my mom cutting a criss-cross pattern in the eggplant every time she made this dish. My mom says it helps the eggplant cook evenly and also let’s the flavors of the other ingredient absorb into the flesh. There are many other don’ts in this: Don’t add water. Don’t cover the pan. Don’t cut the chili peppers if you use them. When I tried her recipe as it is written below, I was thrilled it turned out almost just like hers…almost, of course, because nothing will ever be as good as Mom’s. —monkeymom

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 pounds Chinese or Japanese eggplant (about 4 large)
  • 4-6 ounces pork (boneless country ribs, ground pork, or pork tenderloin all work fine. This can also be omitted if you want this to be vegetarian)
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • optional: For a spicy dish, 1-2 whole green fresh Serrano chili peppers, 1-2 dried whole red peppers, or 1-2 Tbsp of hot chili oil.
  1. Cut the pork into small thin pieces and add 3 Tbsps of the soy sauce, the white pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Mix well. Marinate while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. Wash and cut eggplants to about 3 inches long, and then slice each piece in half.
  3. Score each half ¼ inch deep on the skin side diagonally every 1/2 in. Then score perpendicular to the first set of score marks making a criss-cross pattern.
  4. Use a 12-inch nonstick frying pan. Heat the pan to medium. Add 3 Tbsps of cooking oil. Place half of the eggplants on the pan, purple skin side up. Don’t overlap. Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt on the eggplants. Check often. The eggplant will absorb the oil quickly, but it is okay. If the eggplant appears to be getting too dark and not softening, turn down the heat a bit. Turn the eggplants over when well-browned and softened slightly.
  5. Fry the purple skin side and sprinkle another ¼ tsp salt on the eggplant again. Fry the eggplants until it is softened and browned. Don’t cover the pan or add any water. Remove the browned eggplants to a plate. They should be slightly softened, but not falling apart. Repeat browning the other half of the eggplants as above and remove to same plate when done.
  6. In the same frying pan, heat 1 tablespoonful of cooking oil. (If you want the eggplant dish spicy, you can add the whole green or dried red chili peppers now. Stir fry them briefly to let them release their heat to the oil. Discard them. As an alternative, you can add purchased chili oil instead.) Add green onion and garlic. Stir them. Don’t burn them. Add marinated pork and brown them. (If doing a vegetarian version, mix up the marinade ingredients and add them here.)
  7. Put browned soft eggplants back into the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar and 1 Tbsp of soy sauce over the eggplants and mix well. Gently stir-fry them in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes until eggplants are softened enough to your desired texture. Taste and season with additional soy sauce, sugar, or salt as needed. Don’t cover the pan.
  8. My mom says “Remove your delicious eggplants to a beautiful plate and enjoy it with your family or friends.” Serve hot.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • meganvt01
  • Starmade
  • Tbird
  • lloreen
  • Leslie Svanevik
    Leslie Svanevik

Recipe by: monkeymom

My favorite distraction is to cook. Though science and cooking/baking have a lot in common, I'm finding that each allows me to enjoy very different parts of my life. Cooking connects me with my heritage, my family, friends, and community. I'm really enjoying learning from the food52 community, who expose me to different ingredients and new ways to cook.

40 Reviews

meganvt01 July 22, 2018
Love love love this recipe. An oldie but a goodie.
Starmade November 6, 2016
I wanted to try this and made it last night using a fresh, glossy, fat, and not at all Asian eggplant from the farmers market, all that was available at the time. I sliced off the four sides before cutting up the middle to maximize the skin. I worried as I fried the pieces that the skin would be too tough, and that I would ruin the dish by not using the right eggplant, but the eggplant pieces melted into an unctuous mass by the end and were wonderfully delicious, the skin not at all a problem (tho will certainly use asian eggplants next time if I can get them). The touch of a little brown sugar, added to taste at the end, perfects this simple and forgiving recipe. I also left out some of the soy in the marinade and it was fine.
Shortrib October 1, 2016
This is great! It has a wonderful depth of flavour. I used gr. pork, left out the final TB of soy and used 1TB of chili oil. Perfect with rice & garlic bok choy. Thank you for sharing your Mom's tips!
Tbird December 8, 2014
Terrific recipe. Made it for 8 of us. I used probably 10 Japanese eggplant (they were delicious). Also, I had to increase the pork. Seems like 4-6 oz for 4 people was little as is. I was planning on using one 1lb. pork loin for the 4 of us, but then when our friends came over, I added another. So that was 2 lbs of pork loin and 10 eggplants. I also added fresh grated ginger to the marinade on the pork. Added some great freshness.

Served this with sautéed Bok Choy and brown rice. The Bok Choy was great. sautéed garlic and green onion, added the BC, some rice wine vinegar, then about 1/4 cup of chicken stock. YUMM !!!!
Kds August 22, 2013
Great recipe! Made this tonite with shrimp instead of pork and had to add 2baby regular eggplant because my garden didn't quite produce enough yet. You can tell which eggplant is better, the regular ones were slightly bitter. Next time i will wait till i have enough japanese eggplants. Great sauce, easy to make!
lloreen July 30, 2013
I am late to join the party for this recipe, but I made it tonight with ground pork and it was delicious. The only problem was that I made extra, planning to have leftovers and my guests licked the bowl clean! By the way, because one guest was diabetic I substituted a tsp of stevia for the brown sugar. I think you could leave out the sugar entirely if you need to and it would still be great. I did add extra garlic, though.
Leslie S. July 1, 2013
Delightful! I found the finished dish a bit salty for my taste, so I'd probably cut down the soy sauce by a tablespoon or so next time. My Japanese eggplants were huge, so I quartered the wedges instead of halving them. Otherwise, sweet, sticky eggplant goodness that rivals the eggplant that I always order when at Chinese restaurants. I will definitely be making this again, experimenting with proteins and additional veggies.
Hloper September 5, 2012
I made this tonight with a Serrano chile for heat, and used pork loin. I will make it again but will use the smaller amount of soy, rather than five tbs, which to our taste was too salty. I will up the sweet, slightly, and double the garlic, which I actually added as the meat was finishing browning. Because I had it, I also added some julienned red bell pepper which made the dish very pretty, and some fresh ginger, but not enough to truly flavor. I will add more of that too! I sprinkled chopped green onions and cilantro on top, and served with sticky rice. Though the recipe says it serves four, my husband and I had no trouble polishing off every bit. Thanks for the technique. will make again! oh yes, I too added water, but at the end because I wanted a bit more sauce, and that worked out beautifully, without adding any additional cornstarch.
NakedBeet March 12, 2012
Hi! I made a vegetarian version of this and used a regular stainless pan because it's large enough to hold the quantity of eggplant I'm making, so I did have to use just a little water after the eggplants browned to get them to unstick a bit. What is the thinking in your recipe behind not using water? I found that the flavor in my dish was still very good and not diluted.
monkeymom July 15, 2011
My mom and I are so happy to have so many great cooks enjoying this dish! I love to hear the additions as well. Thanks for the nice comments!
AntoniaJames July 14, 2011
I make this at least twice a month. When the Japanese eggplant are particularly beautiful and plentiful, it's on our table even more often. The other night I made it with shrimp. Delicious!! Easily, this is one of my favorite recipes on food52. Please thank your dear mother for me, and for my sons and Mr. T., again. ;o)
jessf July 14, 2011
I made this dish a month ago with beautiful eggplants from the farmers market. I will make it again tonight for my dad who if visiting from out of town. Thanks to you and your mom for such a great recipe.
aargersi May 25, 2011
I am picking eggplant like crazy - I will be making this often this summer!!!!
healthierkitchen May 8, 2011
Monkeymom - these are incredible! I've been meaning to make these forever and finally did last night. So delicious - like the restaurant dish but even better! My daughter and her friend just loved the flavor. Thanks so much and Happy Mother's Day to you and your Mom
monkeymom May 15, 2011
Yay! So glad you all liked it. Happy belated Mom's day to you too!
AntoniaJames February 26, 2011
monkeyman, please thank your mother, from me, for this amazing recipe. I made it again tonight, this time with ground pork. Oh, just to die for! It's one of our favorite dinners. Tell your mother that I've made it at least twelve times, probably more, since you posted it, and every time, it gets rave reviews. ;o)
monkeymom February 28, 2011
So happy that you are enjoying this! My mom is very happy to share it with you. It is my favorite!
iuzzini November 6, 2010
This looks sooooooooo appealing! I can't wait to make it this week! Thanks!
AntoniaJames November 7, 2010
It is good! It's one of the best recipes on the site. I bought some Japanese eggplants just yesterday, to make this again within the next few days. You will love it. Be sure to use a non-stick skillet, and follow the instructions exactly, to the letter. Sensational!! ;o)
luvcookbooks November 7, 2010
making this soon in its vegetarian version, thank goodness for the view comments on the side that helps you find great new recipes.
monkeymom November 9, 2010
Hope you guys like it! It's on regular rotation in our house :) I'm so glad you like it AJ!
AntoniaJames November 9, 2010
I'm actually making this again, tonight! (Will use chicken, as that's what I have on hand . . . .) Just love this recipe. One of my top ten, easily, from my year on food52, and I try a lot of the recipes here!!
AntoniaJames September 23, 2010
Made this again, using sweet, just-picked Chinese eggplants from our Asian farmers' market (downtown Oakland on Fridays). So delicious! I used chicken thigh meat instead of pork. I could eat this every week. ;o)
melissav July 20, 2010
Finally got around to making this after eyeballing it for months. It was worth the wait . . . delicious. Two of us ate the whole mess of it - it was that good. Thanks!
monkeymom August 23, 2010
So glad you like it!! Thanks for letting me know, mom was so happy to hear that other folks are trying it out.
AntoniaJames June 23, 2010
We made this over the weekend. First, your instructions are perfect. Second, and more important, the finished product was a huge hit, even among those who generally don't care much for eggplant. We used a large non-stick skillet, and very little oil, so the eggplant wasn't greasy at all, as it often is in restaurants. I used exactly the same method, by the way (minus the criss crosses) to prepare some Blue Lake beans and chicken, also with excellent results. Two thumbs up!! This one is a real keeper. ;o)
monkeymom June 23, 2010
AJ, I'm so happy you all liked it! I'll have to try it with beans and chicken, sounds delicious. I'm glad to hear you used little oil too with success. I'm hungry now!
aargersi April 26, 2010
Please give your mom a GIANT hug from me ... I made this last night for dinner - didn't cover the pan, didn't add water, didn't burn the garlic - and it was SO GOOD. I didn't remove to a beautiful plate, just piled it all on my plate and ate it up ...
monkeymom April 27, 2010
How awesome! She will be thrilled!
CASJ February 26, 2011
and why wasn't this on the menu last week???