Can you smell the fragrance from the roasted garlic coming out from this picture? This is one of my favorite restaurant style eggplant dishes. It took a lot of discipline to keep myself from eating this food before I photographed it. All the colors, the aromatic smell, and the light sweet and spicy taste all together made this dish fantastic to feed your eyes, nose, and stomach.
I served this dish a couple years ago when we had friends over for dinner. Our friend, Roger, said this was the first time he had eggplant, and he was surprised how delicious it was. When I was a child, my parents cooked eggplant during the summer quite often. They either steamed them and then flavored them with spice broth and chili oil, or stir-fried in oil. Eggplant is like a sponge. Every time you fry it, it ends up absorbing so much oil that the eggplant is soaked with cooking oil. Not very healthy, right?
How can I make eggplant tasty, healthy, and easy to cook? This time I took the advantage of the oven. First, I cut the eggplant into small stripes (I used the long, skinny Chinese eggplant in this recipe), then lay them on a greased baking sheet with the skin side up. Bake them at 400 °F for 8 minutes. While the eggplant is baking, prepare the rest of the dish. I have read that some people like to use the water-frying method to reduce the greasiness of the oil-fried eggplant. That’s another healthy option in cooking eggplant.
I like to coat the eggplant and tofu with a thick sauce to intensify the flavor. Although they don’t have very strong taste themselves, you have many options to dress them up: bold spicy; sweet and sour; or creamy, et al.
Serve a bowl of fresh steamed white rice along with this eggplant tofu dish, and you will feel like you are dinning in an authentic Chinese restaurant. The dish is less greasy and healthier. Mark the recipe for your Meatless Monday choices.
- 2 Eggplants Chinese style preferred, approximately 14 oz
- 2 tbs canola oil
- 16 oz firm or extra firm tofu
- 1 medium size green bell pepper
- ½ medium size red bell pepper
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1½ tsp finely chopped garlic
- 1½ tbs tomato paste
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 pinch of black pepper
- 2 tsp soy sauce gluten-free if desired
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbs finely chopped green onion for garnishing
- Optional ½ tsp sesame seeds for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 400 °F.
- Wash the eggplant well. Cut off the top ends. Halve the eggplant then cut into 3” long strips. Place the eggplant strips with the skin side up on the oil greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes.
- Drain the excess water from the tofu package. Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes. Cut the peppers into 3 inch long strips.
- Heat 1 tbs oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add tofu, and stir gently without breaking the tofu cubes. Fry until the sides of tofu cubes are slightly brown. Add eggplant strips, green pepper, red pepper, and a pinch of salt. Stir to mix well (about 3 minutes). Transfer the mixture into a serving dish and set aside.
- Heat the rest of oil in the sauté pan over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic. Stir occasionally until fragrant. Add tomato paste, salt, pepper, and water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1 minute.
- Bring the tofu mixture back to the sauté pan. Mix well with the garlic tomato sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds before serving. Serve hot.
A different brand of tofu may contain a different amount of water. If the sauce is too runny, add 1 tsp cornstarch + 1 tbs water mixture to the dish in step 6.