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Great homemade coffee with James Hoffmann.
The Sichuan name for this classic dish is yu xiang qie zi, which translates as “fish fragrant eggplant” despite the fact that no seafood of any kind is used in its making. Some sources say it’s so called because the eggplant is cooked with ingredients commonly paired with fish in Sichuan cooking. Many versions include ground pork but ours is meat-free, and we pan-fry the eggplant instead of deep-frying it the traditional way, so it’s much simpler to prepare. Sichuan chili-bean paste, called toban djan, is salty, spicy and rich in umami. Look for it in the international aisle of the supermarket or in Asian grocery stores. It’s worth seeking out, as there’s nothing quite like it. And while you’re shopping, also try to source Chinese black vinegar, also known as Chinkiang (Zhenjiang) vinegar. If it’s unavailable, balsamic, a seemingly peculiar substitution, is the next best option, as its sour-sweet flavor is reminiscent of the malty notes of black vinegar. Serve with steamed rice.
pound Chinese eggplant, trimmed, cut lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into 2-inch sections
cup potato starch OR cornstarch
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