It’s such a joy to talk about this recipe. It also happens to be what I ate for dinner last night, wishing the plate would never end (as I always do). But as we well know, all good things must come to an end eventually…until next week of course. It does deserve a weekly slot on the food agenda, I assure you.
It’s a dish that was built for Monday supper. The beginning of the week’s drudgery…all you want to do is sit down in the evening and feel satisfied and comforted. This certainly excels on both counts. In fact, I named it ‘the comfort dish’ in the days when I worked long and stressful hours, heavily pregnant and commuting to and from London on a daily basis. Sometimes the thought of this meal would quite literally get me through the day (I did say my world revolves around eating – and this is only heightened when six months pregnant!). I hope my husband realises that.
This scrumptious Sichuan delight was brought to us by the very talented Ching He-Huang and features in her book ‘Chinese Food Made Easy’ and on the Food Network website here. It’s correct name is ‘Fish Fragrant Aubergine Pork’.
Don’t be misled by the name folks, there is nothing ‘fishy’ about this in the slightest, so all you fish haters can breathe a sigh of relief. You can still get involved with this plate. Ching rightly describes it as a ‘bouillon-like taste’ in her book, all coming from the decent organic chicken stock you will need to bring it together. It’s also a great way to use pork mince – go for top quality where possible as it all adds to that glorious meaty flavour.
You will need – an aubergine, garlic, red chilli, ginger, pork mince (half a 400g pack is all you need – freeze the other half for next time), Shaohsing rice wine, chilli bean sauce, chicken stock cube (we use Kallo Organic), clear rice vinegar, corn flour, toasted sesame oil, pak choi (optional but highly recommended for texture, especially if you love your greens) and spring onions. Please refer to the recipe for precise quantities and the cooking method. It really helps to have everything lined up in little pots in preparation, all ready to be thrown into the wok at the appropriate timings (I love that unmistakable aroma as the Shaohsing rice wine hits the pan just as the meat starts to brown).
We usually omit the chillies in truth as you do get a strong heat from the chilli bean paste, but that’s for you to decide what you think you can handle! I find too much chilli can over power the delectable flavours radiating through this culinary jungle. It may sound like an overload of components here, but I can verify that they all marry together to create something quite marvellous.
Every bite is spicy and more-ish…a rich juiciness emerging from the aubergine against the crunch of the spring onions and/or pak choi. How could something so so tasty actually be relatively healthy? It doesn’t work that way, does it? On Monday night it does.