Vegan Fish Fragrant Eggplants (魚香茄子)

Soft, luscious, and vibrantly purple Fish Fragrant Eggplants — a Sichuan classic, vegan-ized. The dish elicits warmth and luxury, and is marked by the trifecta of sweet, salty, and spicy. Quite the epitome of Sichuan flavors and textures.

The name “魚香,” also known as “Fish-Fragrance,” comes from the “fishy” flavors of fermented bean paste, garlic, ginger, and scallions. Note that the original, non-vegan version does not actually contain fish! Rather, minced pork is most commonly used for this dish.


An Alternative to TVP

If you do not have access to TVP or dislike using TVP, I’m here to tell you that firm tofu is a great alternative! To prepare the tofu, first press it with a tofu press or some heavy objects to remove excess liquid. Then, simply use your hands and crumble the tofu into tiny pieces as shown. From there, cook the crumbled tofu just as you would cook TVP (instructions below).


Vegan Fish Fragrant Eggplants (魚香茄子)

5 from 7 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: LunchCuisine: ChineseDifficulty: Medium
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes

A vegan version of the Sichuan classic: Fish Fragrant Eggplants (魚香茄子). The sauce has all of sweet, salty, and spicy, and the eggplants are soft & luscious. Perfect over a bed of fluffy steamed rice.

Ingredients

  • 2 (~400 g) Chinese eggplants (or other Asian eggplants)

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon distilled vinegar

  • For Braising
  • 1/8 cup (14 g) textured vegetable protein

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced

  • 4 dried chilis, deseeded & thinly sliced

  • 1 scallion, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons doubanjiang, or spicy broad bean paste

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 3/4 cup (180 g) water

  • Thickening Agent
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  • Prepare the TVP. Soak the TVP in warm water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, drain the water and squeeze out excess liquid from the re-hydrated TVP. 
  • Prepare the Eggplants. Slice the eggplants by first trimming off the stems, slicing the eggplant into segments, then into batons (that are about 6 cm long & 2 cm thick). Quickly place all the eggplants in a bowl and add cornstarch, salt, and distilled vinegar. Toss to combine, making sure that each slice of eggplant is well-coated. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. At the end of the 10 minutes, pour out any liquid that has gathered at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Frying Method. Heat up a healthy amount of oil (think between shallow-frying and deep-frying) in a non-stick pan or wok. Once the oil is hot enough (such that a wooden utensil instantly bubbles in the oil), fry the eggplants for about 2 minutes, or until softened and acquired a vibrant purple. Note: be sure not to over-crowd the pan/wok, the eggplants should all be mostly submerged in the oil while frying. Once the eggplants are done frying, quickly drain & remove from the oil. Spread the eggplants out on a single-layer to cool. Note: do not pile them in a bowl, as the residual heat/steam will cause some eggplants to overcook and lose their purple color.
  • Steaming Method. If you do not wish to fry the eggplants, you can steam them without compromising flavor/texture (only difference is that you will likely lose the vibrant purple color). Pile them up loosely in your steamer and steam them with your desired method (I typically use a bamboo steamer) for 10-12 minutes, or until creamy/tender but not falling apart. You can taste a piece to check.
  • Make the Fish Fragrant Eggplants. Heat ~1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan/wok on medium-high heat. Start by frying the TVP until nicely browned and caramelized, or until the TVP achieves a meaty but not crunchy texture. Push the TVP to the side. Follow with a bit more oil and cook garlic, ginger, and dried chilis until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add the doubanjiang and ground Sichuan pepper (optional), and cook together while stirring for an additional 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan/wok with soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and water (I like to pre-combine them). Add back the fried eggplants, followed with a drizzle of cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. Cook everything together for an additional minute, and take off the heat once eggplants are tender (again, be careful not to overcook them). Finish with scallions and optionally, drizzle with chili oil. Serve warm.

Notes

  • For optimal color, the eggplants should be very fresh. A fresh & young eggplant still has white spots on top (near the stem).
  • Textured Vegetable Protein. If you don’t like or don’t have access to textured vegetable protein, you can substitute with crumbled firm tofu. Use 50 grams of tofu per 2 servings.

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to see your recreations!

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Taylor Tries Her Best
9 months ago

Your food always looks so amazing!

Dan Nguyen
Dan Nguyen
4 months ago

not the first time i’ve made this dish, but definitely the first time using this recipe. it was amazing, to say the least! the addition of vinegar to the preparation of the eggplants 100% added a lot more flavors. i wanted to include a picture, but i ate all of it before i could take one!

Mary Vinas
Mary Vinas
3 months ago

It’s so good! I’m glad you included the option to steam the eggplant. I love eggplant dishes but most of the time they seem to soak up oil (so good but so not good for my waist line). It’s still so flavorful with the sauce!

Elisa
Elisa
3 months ago

I’m definitely not a fan of eggplants, but there they are sitting on my fridge so I guess I must make this work haha Thank you for sharing!

ALT
ALT
3 months ago

This was fantastic! Thank you. Love your style and following on IG✨