SICHUAN STYLE EGGPLANT (four cups)
¼ cup vegetable oil
a 1-1/4 pound eggplant, peeled if desired and cut into ½ inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 to 3 teaspoons Szechwan chili paste, or to taste
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
3 scallions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
1 red bell pepper, minced
½ teaspoon sesame oil, or to taste
1. In a wok or large skillet heat the vegetable oil over high heat until it is hot but not smoking and in it stir fry the eggplant over moderately high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is tender and browned. Transfer the eggplant with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
2. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the broth. To the wok add the garlic, ginger, chili paste, hoisin sauce, vinegar and Sherry and stir fry the mixture for 30 seconds. Add the scallions and stir fry the mixture for 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch mixture, stirred, bell pepper and eggplant and stir fry the mixture for 1 minute, or until the eggplant has absorbed most of the liquid. Remove he wok from the heat and add the sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste. (The eggplant may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled.)
4. Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and serve.
NOTE: Sichuan eggplant may be served as an appetizer if accompanied by sesame crackers, rice crackers or even pita wedges.