Mapo Eggplant

June  1, 2022
7 Ratings
Photo by Woonheng Chia
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 2-4
Author Notes

Inspired by spicy mapo tofu, this eggplant dish has the same savory flavor and heat, with a numbing (ma) element in each bite. Eggplant is such a fun, versatile ingredient by itself, especially in stir-fry dishes like this. While globe eggplant works well, I love to use Japanese or Chinese eggplant for the striking purple hue. It jazzes up my taste buds just by looking at it. When shopping for this type of eggplant, it should be firm to the touch, with white color on top (this ensures a tender texture once cooked). If you have tried my Eggplant, Potato, Bell Peppers Stir-Fry, you are familiar with the roll-cut method to prepare the vegetable. This cutting method exposes more of interior, which reduces the cooking time when you simmer in the sauce. With a shorter cooking time, you’ll be able to keep the purple as shiny as possible. —WoonHeng Chia

What You'll Need
  • Neutral oil (such as canola), for frying
  • 1 pound Japanese or Chinese eggplant
  • 3 ounces firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 scallions, white part finely minced, green part chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups 1/4 cups water or vegetable broth, plus more for the slurry
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon chile powder (preferably Sichuan)
  • 1 tablespoon doubanjiang (fermented bean paste)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  1. Fill a large wok or saucepan with about 2 inches of oil for frying. Heat the oil to 350°F. While that heats up, trim the ends from the eggplant, then roll-cut into 1½-inch pieces (cutting the eggplant right before frying prevents it from oxidizing). Fry the eggplants for about 1 minute, until it turns slightly tender. Use a sieve to remove the eggplant, then set the sieve over a bowl.
  2. Carefully pour the oil into a heatproof vessel (you can reserve and reuse it for other dishes), leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan. Over medium heat, sauté the tofu, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until a thin crust forms. Push the tofu aside and add the ginger, garlic, and white part of the scallions. Sauté for 1 minute or so, until fragrant, adding more oil if needed.
  3. Lower the heat, then add the peppercorns, chile powder, doubanjiang, soy sauce, wine, dark soy sauce, sugar, and water or broth. Stir to mix well, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, add the eggplant to the pan, and gently toss to combine. Simmer over medium heat until the sauce has reduced to almost half or the eggplant is as tender as you like. (You can cover the pan with a lid to speed up the cooking, but eggplant will lose its purple hue this way.)
  5. While that simmers, in a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water until combined.
  6. When the eggplant is tender enough, taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly (say, a little soy sauce if you want it saltier, or more doubanjiang if you want it spicier). Slowly add the slurry and continue to simmer until thickened. Garnish with the remaining chopped scallions and serve with rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • KJames53
  • Catherine Gregory
    Catherine Gregory
  • Tubelight@123
  •  Burton

5 Reviews

KJames53 September 30, 2022
This as fantastic! Very warming when the weather is horrible outside.
Catherine G. September 23, 2022
This was delish! We used the whole pack of tofu (8 oz?) and it was saucy and yummy. Thank you!
Tubelight@123 August 8, 2022
I don't have n eggplant can I use bringgle?
Burton July 18, 2022
This recipe is very nice! The method of cooking the eggplant is fussier than I like, and the result in terms of flavor and texture was no better... but the color is really nice, and so for a showy presentation I can't deny that this was the better method. If I was making this for company, I think I'd fry it as written; if not, I think I'd just cook the eggplant the way I normally do. Imo, you can dial up the hot pepper and the Sichuan peppercorn, as this came out fairly mild. Would definitely make again!
Curry L. June 27, 2022
This is really nice! I used my air fryer for the eggplant, coconut aminos as a sub for the sugar/light soy sauce, and black vinegar for the wine (I clearly need to restock my pantry!). This came together quickly and made a nice weekday dinner.