"One word for this dish - inventive. Chef Victor Liong says the idea of using eggplant in long batons, fried in batter and served with this glorious chilli-warm, sweet, salty sauce came to him while eating Korean fried chicken. The eggplant is crunchy on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside and the spiced red vinegar sauce makes all your tastebuds sing. It’s never left the menu of Victor’s Lee Ho Fook and we are very grateful he is sharing the recipe with us. The sauce is useful for so many other dishes as well." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
The vegetarian dishes of China's cuisine aren't often given much spotlight, but this crispy eggplant will have everyone pushing aside the sweet and sour pork.
- 1 large eggplant, peeled
- vegetable oil, for deep frying
- ½ bunch coriander, sprigs picked and finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- 20 g toasted sesame seeds, blended with 1 g salt
Spiced red vinegar sauce
- 100 g liquid glucose
- 450 g caster sugar
- 100 ml soy sauce
- 100 ml Chinese red vinegar
- 70 g soy bean paste
- 70 ml chin kiang black vinegar
- 40 g chilli bean paste
- pinch Sichuan peppercorns, ground
- 40 g Sichuan chilli paste (roasted Sichuan chilli oil)
- 15 g peeled ginger, finely chopped
- 30 g peeled garlic, finely chopped
- 60 g long red chilliies, finely chopped
- 16 g xanthan gum
- 550 ml water
- 4 g salt
- 55 g rice flour
- 55 g tapioca starch
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
For the red vinegar sauce, place the glucose and sugar into a large saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil over high heat and cook until the temperature reaches 121°C.
Meanwhile, place the remaining sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. When the glucose mixture has reached temperature, stir in the combined sauce ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the mixture is a caramelised, glossy and syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. This mixture will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.
For the batter, place the xanthan gum, water and salt in a large bowl and blend together with a stick blender until thick and homogenised. Add the starch and flour and blend until a smooth batter is formed, then set aside until required
Cut the eggplant into sticks about and cut into sticks 12 cm x 1.5 cm. Fill a large wok one third with vegetable oil and heat to 190°C. Cooking in small batches, dip the eggplant sticks into the batter and gently lower into the hot oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then remove and drain on a wire rack.
To serve, place the crispy eggplant into a large bowl. Ladle a generous amount of sauce over the eggplant and give it a good stir, coating all the sticks well. Place on a serving plate and drizzle over more sauce. Sprinkle over the coriander, spring onion and sesame seed salt and serve immediately.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Belinda So.