Braised Eggplant with Tofu in Garlic Sauce
- 2 pounds Chinese or Japanese eggplant (about 4 small), or small Italian eggplant, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar (see note above)
- 3/4 cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon fermented broad bean chili paste
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 whole cloves garlic, smashed with the back of a knife, plus 4 more whole cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, whites and greens thinly sliced and reserved separately
- 2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced preserved mustard root (see note above)
- 1 (12.3 ounce) box firm silken tofu, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Place eggplant in a large bamboo steamer and set over a wok filled with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, cover steamer, and cook until eggplant is completely tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
While eggplant is cooking, make the sauce. Combine vinegar, wine, and cornstarch and stir with fork until cornstarch is dissolved. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, and sesame oil. Set aside.
Wipe out wok and dry carefully. Add oil and whole garlic cloves. Heat over medium heat stirring and turning garlic cloves occasionally until light golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Discard whole cloves then increase heat to high and heat oil until smoking. Add sliced garlic, scallion whites, and preserved mustard root. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly until fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Stir sauce to re-incorporate corn starch, then add to wok, stirring constantly. Add eggplant and tofu and fold gently to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, folding and stirring occasionally until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in scallion greens and cilantro and serve immediately with white rice, if desired.