|New photo updated Oct. 2012.|
You might think shrimp and eggplant are an odd combination, unless you've had this dish at dim sum. I love it. Mom still finds it weird to have me snapping shots around her and trying to note every little detail, but I got the recipe! In exchange, I showed her how to make sweet potato biscuits, which I'll be posting soon.
The eggplant is sliced on the diagonal, and then sliced again (but not all the way through) to create a pocket to hold the shrimp. The slices are then filled with shrimp, and browned in the pan. Because eggplant sucks up oil like a sponge, eggplant dishes can be greasy. Mom uses the Chinese method of quickly frying for color and flavor, then steaming the rest of the way through to avoid more oil absorption. The dish is finished off with the usual oyster sauce, and Mom's addition of mirin adds complexity. Use Japanese eggplants, which are slender and long, rather than the short and bulbous Italian variety.
Mom's Shrimp-Stuffed Eggplant
3 Japanese eggplants
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp cornstarch, divided
Salt and pepper
2 tbs oyster sauce
1 tsp mirin (substitute with sugar if you can't find this)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, chopped
Chill the shrimp in the freezer in a bowl with 1 teaspoon each of salt, sugar, and water for a few minutes. Mom believes it lends the shrimp a fresh and crisp texture.
Drain the shrimp. Using a cleaver or other knife, whack each piece of shrimp so it is flattened, which will help with binding the mixture together later. Then chop the shrimp into a mince, and add ½ tsp pepper,¼ tsp salt, and ½ tsp cornstarch to combine.
Slice each eggplant on the diagonal, about 1½-inch thick. Then slice through the middle, but not all the way, to create a pocket for the shrimp. The end pieces can be cooked unstuffed with the rest of the dish.
Fill each eggplant slice to the top with about a tablespoon of the shrimp mixture.
Heat a pan over medium-high heat with ¼ inch of canola oil. Working in batches, fry the eggplant slices for a couple minutes on each side until browned and then move the slices to a plate.
Return all the eggplant slices to the pan, add ½ cup water, and cover. Steam for 7 to 10 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and easily pierced with a knife, and the shrimp is pink and cooked through. Do not overcook, or the shrimp will toughen and the eggplant wi The end pieces may take longer to cook.
In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, mirin, the other ½ tsp of cornstarch, and 2 tbs water, then add to the pan and stir. Cook for 2 minutes, until sauce thickens. Move the eggplant and sauce to a plate. Add the garlic and chopped scallion and cook for a minute, then sprinkle over top of the dish.