Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

After all these healthy recipes for making Chinese food at home are you still craving that saucy, garlicky, spicy eggplant dish found in most Chinese restaurants? The one that is called “eggplant in garlic sauce,” “eggplant Sichuan/Szechwan style” or some such?

Before you run out and indulge, consider the nutritional content of this dish when prepared in restaurants: Both WebMD and Nutrition Action put Eggplant in Garlic Sauce down for 1000 calories and 2000 mg sodium for a dinner-size dish of the stuff! Yes, but you’d share that plate, right? At Panda Express, the Eggplant and Tofu in Garlic Sauce will set you back 180 calories and 690 mg sodium for one 5.5 oz serving. That’s a lot of calories for a vegetable and approximately 30% of the sodium recommended for an average HEALTHY adult to take in daily.

Try making this at home in a healthier fashion and you’ll be just as satisfied! I’ve changed the cooking method from shallow-frying the eggplant to steaming it – this not only eliminates the fat it absorbs, but it also makes the preparation much faster and less labor-intensive. To make it even healthier, you can leave out the sesame oil and use low-sodium soy sauce and water in place of the broth, although you will lose some of the authentic flavor that way.

ingredients:

  • 1 lb eggplant – Japanese, Chinese, globe…they’ll all work.
  • 2 tsp vinegar – Chinkiang is nice, but rice wine or cider will substitute nicely.

sauce:

  • 3 cloves garlic, smacked, then cut into small chunks
  • 1 T ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1 T hot chili sauce, Sichuan if you can find it or Sriracha
  • 2 T soy sauce – if you have light and dark, use 1 of each.
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 c broth (low-sodium if canned) or water

thickener:

  • 2 tsp cornstarch or tapioca flour
  • 2 T water

garnish:

  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

method:

  1. If you are using a rounder eggplant, cut it into 2″ cubes. You can cut long, skinny Japanese and Chinese eggplants into 1″ thick rounds, or you can roll cut.
  2. Place the eggplant in a heatproof dish and steam until tender, approximately 10-20 m, but not too soft – a knife should easily pierce it but not mush it in the process.
  3. Combine the thickener ingredients and set aside.
  4. Combine the sauce ingredients in a wok and bring to a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 m, uncovered.
  5. Add the eggplant and vinegar and stir gently from the bottom to coat with the sauce.
  6. Heat through, then add the thickener, still stirring very gently. Cook 1-2 m to get rid of the starchy taste.
  7. Slide onto a serving plate and garnish with scallion and sesame oil.

variations:

This sauce can be used to cook tofu – just cube firm beancurd up and replace some or all of the eggplant with it. For some texture variation, you can add sliced bamboo shoots or water chestnuts.

nutritional data:

I am assuming that this dish will serve 4 as part of a multi-dish meal. These figures are based on the recipe being made with water (not broth) and 1 T each of the light and dark soy sauces. You’ll see the sodium is very hard to reduce, but serve with plenty of brown rice and a vegetable dish not made with soy sauce, and things can balance out.

  • Total calories 63, calories from fat 12
  • Total fat 1 g, saturated fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 556 mg
  • Total carbs 12 g, dietary fiber 4 g, sugars 5 g
  • Protein 2 g
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26 Responses

  1. Thank you! I like eggplant and I would like to try this recipe. Recently I started cooking Chinese food at home, this website is quite useful Chinese Food

  2. Hi, Joan – Thanks for the comment and the recommendation! I like your “tips” post and would love to swap links with you but don’t see a way to comment on your blog….

  3. Boy I was lucky, finding your site on a search for eggplant in garlic sauce. I had these beautiful little eggplant from my CSA. I had already started frying them — I will steam next time — and was in such a hurry (kids screaming) that I skipped the thickeners, eyeballed all the ingredients and it still came out delicious. I probably should not mention that I served it over leftover whole wheat pasta 🙂 But the fact that it was still delicious is a sign of a great recipe! Thanks

    • Long live CSAs! And you are a cook after my own heart – you used the recipe for inspiration and added your own touches (nice move w/ the pasta!). Thanks for visiting.

  4. This is the dish I always order in Chinese restaurants. I made your version tonight and it was wonderful! I am sold on steaming. Thank you!

  5. I made this last night for good friends, and it was excellent. As good as any I’ve eaten out and certainly much better for you. Thanks for the recipe.

  6. […] a new recipe, inspired by the amazing Thai restaurant we visit when passing through Rawlins, WY:  Eggplant in Garlic Sauce.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of the cooking process and the to-die-for final […]

  7. […] here is where you can get my inspiration for the recipe, as well as the sauce.  But if you want to do […]

  8. Jim – I hear you! Unfortunately, I am not technically savvy enough to do this, although I’ve tried, believe me! My best advice would be to select the text you want and copy and paste into a word processing application before printing. I have solved the problem on my other blog by creating downloadable pdfs, but my time is such that I haven’t taken that step on this one yet. Apologies for your frustration.

  9. Made this tonite and it was great. Unfortunately, I did over steam the eggplant, but it tasted terrific anyway. I used Sambal garlic paste insted of garlic sauce. I definitely would reduce the garlic sauce/paste to 1 teaspoon, as it was way too hot, although my husband loved it that hot. I also used baked tofu instead of regular tofu, as we like the texture better. My hubby did suggest adding some nuts to it next time. Either way there will definitely be a next time.

  10. I moved down south (SC) a few years back & was able to get this dish anytime up north; down here, not so much. This looks really easy to make & sounds as yummy as I remember! Can’t wait to try it. : )

  11. Delish! You definitely do not miss the oil. I even made it without the garlic and it’s amazing (I’m finishing it up as we speak.) I crave this dish a lot. Now I can make it @ home for a fraction of the cost and it takes no longer than to get takeout. Thanks so much. xo

    • JoanT – thanks! I’m so pleased you like it – that’s exactly why I posted these recipes: simple, inexpensive, and so much better for you….

  12. Hey, I have to tell you…I recently went to a Chinese restaurant where I’ve had this dish previously. I always thought it was incredible. Not anymore. 🙂 “Our” version far surpassed their’s…and I’m steaming the eggplant as we speak. Yay and thanks again! P.S. Given what our government is about to do with our health care…”better for you” is definitely top of mind. 🙂

    • Glad you like it – it’s all about retraining our palates, isn’t it? A lot of unhealthful food tastes different (worse!) after you train yourself to appreciate the healthful version!

  13. Nice recipe! Do you think I could substitute natural Stevia for the brown sugar. I have to watch my use of sugar. Thanks!

    • I’m not a fan of Stevia, so I wouldn’t know where to begin with the amount to use, but I think you could certainly try it. My recommendation would be to first cut down or cut out the sugar entirely and see how much you really feel it’s necessary.

  14. Just made your eggplant recipe. Added steamed tofu. It was really delicious.
    Thanks

  15. yum yum yum! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  16. excellent recipe, thank you! replaced the brown sugar with coconut palm sugar, used red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup low sodium veg broth. garnished with fresh chopped chives. Amazing!

  17. This is wonderful! My mother never served eggplant when I was growing up. I have always thought of it as rather “spongy” and never could figure out a way to really enjoy it. Your recipe makes it delicious and good-textured. Thank you.

  18. I made this tonight, followed the directions to a T, and it did not come out at all as pictured. There wasn’t nearly enough sauce so it didn’t thicken to cover enough of the eggplant. I only used 2 Chinese eggplant for this recipe. Not sure what I did wrong.

    • Hmmm. I’m not sure either why it wouldn’t work out, as this is the most popular recipe on my blog – I’m sorry it didn’t work for you! I wonder about the eggplant – whether it was maybe too absorbent and that’s why you didn’t have enough sauce? The steamed egglpant should be “wet” enough that it doesn’t absorb too much of it.

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