Chinese-style Braised Eggplant with fresh Basil

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Braised eggplant is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Our favorite restaurant, King Yen in Berkeley, serves it fragrant with fresh basil. I picked up the veggies from the farmer’s market: long Asian eggplants, mushrooms, with fresh basil, red bell peppers and green onions (scallions) for color.

I added a chicken breast for more protein. If you have leftover roasted breast you can chop it in bite sized pieces and add it in with the basil.

I make it vegetarian/vegan by swapping the chicken for tofu. and use vegetable broth. I also use both chicken and tofu. I add flavor to the tofu by salting it and frying it in the same oil I used for frying the onions, garlic and ginger. 

I only add a teaspoon of Sriracha because I can’t handle much heat, but feel free to amp it up, adding it at the end to taste.

This is even better the next day, when the basil has a chance to permeate the dish.

This is a time consuming dish. Be sure to do all the chopping and sauces prep before you start to cook so you’re not all stressed out while you’re cooking!

Serves 4

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Ingredients

3 1/2 Tb canola oil for frying (2 Tb if not using tofu)

1 Chicken breast, about 3/4 pound (optional)

1 package extra firm tofu. Salt for sprinkling on tofu

1 pound Chinese eggplants (3 long skinny ones)

8 medium mushrooms (crimini or white)

6 dried shiitake mushrooms (optional)

1 medium or 2 small red or yellow bell peppers

2″ piece of fresh ginger to make 1 Tb grated ginger

5 large cloves of garlic to make 1 Tb thinly sliced garlic

2 green onions (scallions). You can mince a slice of regular yellow onion to make 2 Tb if you don’t have green onions.

1/2 bunch fresh Thai or regular basil to make 1 1/2 cups basil leaves

1 can water chestnuts

Sauce:

sauces

3/4 cup chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup) or vegetable broth or soaking liquid from dried shiitakes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (add more for more heat)

Thickener:

4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) water or reserved soaking liquid from dried mushrooms.

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Prep:

Make brown rice

Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup warm water

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If using tofu, cut the block into 3 or 4 slices. Pat dry with a paper towel and wrap in a clean dishtowel. Press between two cutting boards and place a heavy frying pan on top for 15 minutes while you prepare the sauce. Unwrap and slice crosswise into 1/2 inch slices and sprinkle both sides with salt.

ginger n garlicPeel and grate ginger to make 1 Tablespoon

Peel and thinly slice garlic to make 1 Tablespoon

Trim woody ends from mushroom stems, then quarter.

red bell pepper and scallions

Slice red peppers into strips

Slice green onions crosswise. Mince the green parts and reserve for garnish.

cut eggplant

Chop eggplants at angles into uneven bite-sized pieces. This will help prevent them from sticking to the pan.

Rinse water chestnuts and chop them into halves

Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, if using

Pull leaves off of basil stems to make 1 1/2 cups of leaves

Directions:

chicken and peppers and scallions

Heat wok on high and add oil (2 Tb if adding chicken, 1 1/2 Tb if not.) Stir-fry chicken a few minutes to sear it, then toss with onions and red bell peppers. Mix in ginger and garlic with metal spatula to incorporate browned bits of chicken. 

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If you are making this vegan, just stir fry the pepper and onion mix 

If adding tofu: remove vegetables (and chicken if using) to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Add 1 Tb of oil and add 1/2 the tofu at a time and fry on each side until browned. Remove and set on paper towels to drain, then add anther Tb of oil and fry the remaining tofu and drain.

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beginning to cook

Slice the reconstituted dried mushrooms and discard the stems. Reserve 4 teaspoons of the soaking liquid for the thickener. If making vegan, use soaking liquid in the sauce instead of chicken broth.

Add the onion mix back into the pan along with the rest of the chopped vegetables and water chestnuts. Stir-fry a few minutes over high heat.

Pour in the sauce and toss the vegetables to coat.  Add the fried tofu and gently toss to coat it. Lower heat and cover wok. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that vegetables are submerged.

cooking with basilStir in the basil leaves and continue simmering covered for another 3 minutes until eggplant is thoroughly cooked and tender.

finished cooking

Mix the reserved mushroom soaking liquid with the cornstarch. Stir in the thickener and bring sauce to a boil until it thickens

Serve over brown rice or on its own. Garnish with a few basil leaves and green onions.