This delicious eggplant dip recipe takes a classic Sichuanese braised eggplant dish and transforms it into an amazing dip to serve as a starter before settling down to a full Sichuanese feast or to snack on with our spicy Sichuan flavoured sourdough crackers, which were literally made for this dish.
Our delicious eggplant dip recipe is based on a variation of the classic Sichuanese braised eggplant dish called ‘fish-fragrant eggplant’, only this eggplant dip recipe requires smaller pieces of eggplant, or aubergine if you prefer, that are further broken down in a mortar and pestle or food processor to create a dip-like texture.
This eggplant dip is perfect with our Sichuan flavoured sourdough starter discard crackers. In fact, I came up with the Sichuan inspired crackers to compliment this dip, so you have the zing of Sichuan peppercorns and the heat of Sichuan chillies.
If you love Middle Eastern eggplant or aubergine dips such as mutabal and baba ganoush, then you are going to love our eggplant dip recipe. But before I tell you all about it, we have a favour to ask.
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Eggplant Dip Recipe Inspired by the Classic Sichuan Braised Eggplant Dish
The original braised fish-fragrant eggplant that our delicious eggplant dip recipe is based upon is a Sichuan cuisine classic. It’s a dish that we always order, well, used to always order, whenever we went out to a Sichuan restaurant. It was a favourite, right up there with mapo tofu.
The style of the eggplant dish is called ‘fish-fragrant’ because the flavour profile is similar to what was used traditionally to season fish dishes – a mix of chilli bean paste, ginger, garlic, and spring onions, or scallions for our American readers.
While the dish is often called braised eggplant, the initial step in the cooking process is deep-frying the eggplant rather than dry searing. The eggplant is then finished off in a liquid (stock is best), but this is more to meld the amazing flavours together rather than cook the eggplant more.
Note that while our eggplant dip recipe makes a spicy dip it is not one of those painfully hot or numbing dishes with which Sichuanese cuisine has become synonymous, such as mala chicken (La Zi Ji), which is literally covered in Sichuan chillies and liberally sprinkled with Sichuan peppercorns.
Both the classic Sichuanese fish-fragrant eggplant and our eggplant dip recipe provide a gentler introduction to seductive Sichuanese cuisine.
It’s that ‘fish-fragrant’ flavour combination finished with some Chinkiang vinegar that makes it such an appealing dish. Often served as part of a banquet, or at minimum with a couple of other dishes and steamed rice, it doesn’t need to be sizzling hot to be enjoyed – which also makes it perfect as a dip.
Some recipes for the braised eggplant dish include pork mince, but as we usually serve it with either mapo tofu or dry-fried long beans with pork, we don’t consider the ground pork necessary. This is not a dish that needs any extra flavour in its sauce – and nor does our eggplant dip recipe.
Tips to Making This Eggplant Dip Recipe
For this eggplant dip recipe, I use what are commonly called Japanese eggplants. You can use other eggplants, such as graffiti eggplants, often called Sicilian eggplants, or Italian-style eggplants, but other eggplant varieties are too small or too bitter.
Removing the excess moisture from the eggplant is an essential step when making this eggplant dip recipe. This is not because of any bitterness in these eggplants (large eggplants are not very bitter), but to remove some of the moisture in the eggplants to assist the speed of deep-frying and also deep frying without splatter.
A vital component of this eggplant dip recipe is the chilli bean paste. There are lots of variations of this paste, but the paste that you want is labelled Chili Bean Sauce and it usually states that it’s made from Sichuan-sourced chillies with broad beans.
Some recipes for the Sichuan braised eggplant dish suggest deep-frying the eggplant batons at 200°C which will really find you scrambling to remove pieces of eggplant that are browning too fast. A temperature of 180°C won’t induce panic or set off your smoke alarm. It’s always best to use a deep fry thermometer for this task. Check out our picks of the best thermometers in this post.
When it comes to the final texture of our eggplant dip, I’ve experimented with both pounding the dip in a mortar and pestle and using a food processor to further break down the eggplant into dip-friendly pieces. Lara likes the eggplant pieces to be larger than I do, whereas I prefer the textures of Middle-Eastern dips such as muttabul and baba ga. Experiment and find what you like best.
Finally, note that this dip does not need to be served hot, as you would the original braised eggplant dish. As with most dips, room temperature works and it tastes delicious cold as well.
Eggplant Dip Recipe
- 400 g eggplant
- Vegetable oil enough for deep-frying
- 1 tbsp Sichuan style chilli bean paste
- 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
- 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
- 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns crushed
- 60 ml chicken stock
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cornflour mixed with one tbsp cold water
- 1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp finely sliced garlic chives or spring onions
- Halve the eggplants lengthways and halve again. Divide the eggplant pieces up so you have roughly 4 cm by 2 cm batons. Place in a colander with a dish underneath and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave to drain for up to 30 minutes and pat dry.
- In a wok or a tall saucepan, place enough vegetable oil to cover the pieces of eggplant. We usually deep fry the eggplant pieces in batches. Heat the oil to 180°C and carefully adda batch of eggplant batons. Deep-fry until golden brown, usually for three minutes. Remove, drain on kitchen towels and deep fry the remaining batches.
- In a wok, heat up some of the leftover oil and over medium heat add the chilli bean paste until it splits and red oil is separated in the pan.
- Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry until they just start to colour. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and stir for a minute.
- Add the chicken stock and sugar and add the fried eggplant. After a minute or so, add the cornflour slurry and mix well. Reduce the heat to low.
- Let the sauce reduce and add the Chinkiang vinegar and light soy sauce. When the sauce has achieved a thick consistency, remove from the heat.
- Add the mixture to a food processor and pulse a few times. We still want some larger pieces of eggplant so do not overdo the blending.
- Add to a serving pate and decorate with the garlic chives or spring onions. Scoop up with sourdough crackers or fresh vegetable pieces.
Please do let us know if you make this eggplant dip recipe in the comments below as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.