1 1/2 lbs. asian (long and skinny) eggplant
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 cup chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock for vegetarian)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 – 1 1/2 tablespoons chili bean paste*
2 teaspoon crushed sichuan peppercorns** (optional, but inauthentic without)
3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon corn starch
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar or apple cider vinegar
4 scallions, roughly chopped
Cilantro for garnish (optional)
**Sichuan peppercorns are available at some stores and online for quite cheap. They aren’t spicy like other peppers but rather have a citrusy flavor and induce a tingly, numbing sensation like a carbonated drink.
Begin your mise en place. Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and chop into large batons and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the chicken stock, sugar, and soy sauce and set it aside. In a second bowl, mix together the chili bean paste, garlic, ginger, and sichuan peppercorns and set it aside. In a third bowl, mix together the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and set it aside. Lastly, in a fourth bowl, mix together the scallions and vinegar and set it aside.
Place the oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil is almost smoking. Add the eggplant and sauté, allowing it to sit for a few seconds each time you move it to allow it to brown and blister. If the eggplant absorbs all the oil and some pieces don’t get any then add a little more oil.
Add the chili bean paste, garlic, ginger, and sichuan peppercorns and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock mixture, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 90 seconds. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir together until the sauce thickens a bit. Add the scallions and vinegar and cook for 15 seconds to diffuse their harsh flavors a bit. Garnish with cilantro and serve.