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Yu Xiang Qie Zi {Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce}

by Shirley

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Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}

Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}, or literally translates as fish fragrant eggplant, is a well-liked traditional Sichuan {Szechuan} food. Fish fragrant {Yu Xiang} absolutely has nothing to do with the fish, but refers to the appetizingly delicious soy garlic sauce featuring chopped pickled chili, or Duo Jiao {剁椒} and Pi Xian DouBanJiang.

Traditional version comes with a small amount of ground pork to enhance the flavor. However, with this super tasty sauce, you can totally skip the ground pork and enjoy an incredibly satisfying yummy vegan stir fried eggplant dish.

Vegan Yu Xiang Qie Zi {Stir Fried Eggplant}

What is Yu Xiang {鱼香} Dish?

Yu Xiang literally translates as fish fragrant. Chinese culture widely considers fish and lamb are among the two most delicious food. As a result, the Chinese character “Xian” {鲜}, or “yumminess” is a fish {Yu 鱼 } and lamb {Yang 羊} combination. To say a dish has a fishlike fragrance is a honor.

Duo Jiao {chopped pickled chili} and Pi Xian DouBanJiang {fermented broad bean with chili} are the two essential highlight ingredients of Yu Xiang dish. Both are iconic ancient Sichuan condiment. Both are absolutely savory and must-have for many classic dishes.

Yu Xiang sauce base is made of naturally aged soy sauce {or dark soy sauce}, light soy sauceZhenjiang Vinegarorganic cane sugararrowroot flour, minced garlic and water.

Duo Jiao {chopped pickled chili} and Pi Xian DouBanJiang {fermented broad bean with chili}
Duo Jiao {chopped pickled chili} and Pi Xian DouBanJiang {fermented broad bean with chili}

What is Duo Jiao {chopped pickled chili 剁椒}?

Duo Jiao has this shiny red color, thanks to a splash of Chinese hard liquor, along with white vinegar that preserved red chili color during the fermentation process. The paste features chopped red chili, minced garlic, ginger and salt.

What is Pi Xian DouBanJiang {fermented broadbean with chili 郫县豆瓣酱}?

Pi Xian DouBanJiang featured fermented beans mixed with special types of chili peppers local to Pi Xian, Sichuan Province in China, along with garlic and ginger. We then seal the mixture with vegetable oil and go through the second stage of fermentation.

I use a pinch of Pi Xian DouBanJiang for everyday cooking such as Red Braised Pork BellyBraised MackerelPan Fried TofuSpicy Cabbage SaladTwice Cooked PorkSteamed Mussels. They elevated the flavor and taste beautifully.

Duo Jiao and DouBanJiang Comparison

Duo Jiao and DouBanJiang are both traditional Sichuan fermented chili paste. They also both use Sichuan chili, garlic, and ginger as key ingredients. The key difference though, Duo Jiao is vinegar based vs. DouBanJiang is oil based. DouBanJiang also uses a specially fermented broadbean as one of the key ingredients.

Color wise, Duo Jiao is bright orange red vs. DouBanJiang is maroon.

How to make a tasty vegan Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}?

The first thing first is to get Chinese eggplant if you can for Yu Xiang Qie Zi

Chinese eggplant features long gourd with thinner skin and deep purple color. They are regulars in our backyard vegetable garden.

Eggplant growing in our vegetable garden
Eggplant growing in our vegetable garden

Tip #2 is to prepare eggplant properly

Cut the eggplant in long strips and tossed with arrowroot flour so that they are barely coated with arrowroot flour. This trick prevents eggplant from absorbing excessive oil during the deep frying. Not only it makes this dish healthier, but also tastes more refreshing.

cut eggplant into thin long strips
cut eggplant into thin long strips
Eggplant strips coated with arrowroot flour for Di San Xian

Tip #3 is to deep fry with avocado oil if possible for refreshingly tasty Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}

Avocado oil is a super healthy and nutritious oil. It also has neutral, tasteless flavor and the highest smoking point among oils, a mighty 520 degree Fahrenheit, or 270 degree Celsius. All these make avocado oil is a wonderful choice for high heat cooking, frying and baking.

Turn the heat to medium and heat the wok with avocado oil for 5 minutes. Add one small batch of coated eggplant at a time and deep fry for 2 minutes. A stainless steel spider strainer is a handy gadget to fetch the fried eggplant.

Deep Frying eggplant strips in avocado oil
Freshly deep fried eggplant strips for making Chinese Di San Xian
Freshly deep fried eggplant strips

Last but not least is to prepare the iconic Yu Xiang Sauce

Ingredients for vegan Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}

A compact food processor is a very handy tool to mince garlic and other herbs.

Minced Garlic Using a Compact Food Processor
Minced Garlic Using a Compact Food Processor
Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}

Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子 Stir Fried Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce} Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}, or literally translates as fish fragrant eggplant, is a well-liked traditional Sichuan {Szechuan} food featuring eggplant stir fried with sweet spicy garlic sauce featuring DuoJiao and Doubanjiang.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb eggplant, about 2 Chinese eggplant
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 10 slices of ginger, minced
  • 1 stalk of green onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp avocado oil, for stir fry {Additional 4 cups for deep frying eggplant}
  • 1 tbsp Duo Jiao {Chopped pickled chili pepper}
  • 1/2 tbsp Pi'Xian DouBanJiang {fermented beans with chili paste}

For Yu Xiang Sauce:

  • 1/2 tbsp naturally aged soy sauce, , or Jiang You {酱油}. See notes.
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Zhenjiang Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp cane sugar, organic perferred
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup water

Instructions

Prep Work:

  1. Gather Ingredients.
    Ingredients for vegan Yu Xiang Qie Zi {鱼香茄子}
  2. Chop green onion into small pieces. Mince ginger and garlic. I often use a compact food processor to help mince garlic.
    Minced Garlic Using a Compact Food Processor
  3. Wash and rinse eggplant well, trim the ends off. Cut eggplant into long strips.
    cut eggplant into thin long strips
  4. Add eggplant pieces into a mixing bowl, add 1 tbsp arrowroot flour and mix well using a pair of wooden spatulas.
    Eggplant strips coated with arrowroot flour
  5. Add 4 cups of avocado oil into the wok, turn the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Carefully add a small batch of coated eggplant strips into the wok, about half of the coated eggplant, just enough to cover the surface but not overcrowd the wok. Use a stainless steel skimmer to gently shake the eggplant to separate them.
  7. Fry for 2 minutes, flip the eggplant half way through for even cooking.
    Deep Frying eggplant strips in avocado oil
  8. Remove the eggplant from the wok using the stainless steel skimmer and place onto a plate. Repeat to fry the other half of the eggplant.
    Freshly fried eggplant strips
  9. Turn off the heat, cover the wok with a lid to avoid water splashing into the wok and let the oil cool down. Store the oil in a glass jar once they are cooled to room temperature. You can re-use them for other deep frying.

Stir Fry:

  1. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat a hard anodized fry pan for 1 minute. Spray 1/2 tsp canola oil using a homemade oil sprayer and then add minced ginger, chopped green onion, Duo Jiao and Pi'Xian DouBanJiang.
    minced ginger, chopped green onion, Duo Jiao and Pi'Xian DouBanJiang in the fry pan
  2. Quickly mix and fold for about 10 seconds or till fragrant.
    stir fry minced ginger, chopped green onion, Duo Jiao and Pi'Xian DouBanJiang until fragrant
  3. Add the fried eggplant, mix and fold.
    Fried eggplant in the pan for making Yu Xiang Qie Zi {eggplant}
  4. Pour the Yu Xiang Sauce from the bowl over eggplant in a circula motion and then quickly fold and mix using a slotted turner. Remember to mix again the sauce right before adding to the pan, as arrowroot flour may settle in the bottom. Use a mini silicone spatula to scrape the bowl if needed.
  5. Immediately fold and mix well the sauce with eggplant, until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken, about 30 seconds.
    Yu Xiang Qie Zi in the pan
  6. All done! Turn off the heat and serve hote. Enjoy a super delcious and satisfying vegan eggplant dish.
    Vegan Yu Xiang Qie Zi {Stir Fried Eggplant}

Notes

  • Avocado oil is my primary cooking oil. It is especially suitable for deep frying due to its impressively high smoking point. You can subsitute it with cooking oil of your choice.
  • Naturally aged soy sauce is the traditional way of naturally brewed and aged soy sauce, called "Jiang You" {酱油} in Chinese. Dark vs. light soy sauce is a modern day Cantonese invention. You can generally subsitute Jiang You with dark soy sauce.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 677Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 2167mgCarbohydrates: 84gFiber: 13gSugar: 24gProtein: 34g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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