An eggplant stir-fry is any stir-fry that includes eggplant as one of the main ingredients. The eggplant may take the place of meat in the dish or it may simply be an additional flavor. Many cooks enjoy adding heavy spices to eggplant stir-fry because the vegetable usually soaks up other flavors pretty easily. Vegetarian versions of eggplant stir-fry often include mushrooms and tofu because the vegetable itself doesn’t contain much protein. Meat-eaters usually add a mild protein, such as chicken or shrimp, to eggplant stir-fry so the meat doesn’t overpower the veggies and other flavors.
One of the first steps in making eggplant stir-fry usually involves choosing the eggplant itself. Many cooks prefer to stay traditional and use Chinese eggplant for this dish. Chinese eggplant is usually dark purple, but is long and skinny instead of bulbous. It is also usually firmer than other varieties of eggplant, making it a good pairing for crunchy vegetables. Bulbous purple or white eggplant usually becomes soft quickly, making it a good choice to pair with tofu. Heirloom eggplant, which is striped, usually has a very rich, musky flavor that many people enjoy with mushrooms or pork.
When purchasing or harvesting the ingredients for eggplant stir-fry, it is generally important to choose the freshest vegetables available. The eggplant should be firm, rich in color, and free of soft spots or bruises. Firm yet ripe eggplants usually have good flavor and shouldn’t become soft and mushy as soon as they’re heated. Cooks may chop them into cubes, dice them into tiny pieces, or julienne them into strips. When cooked, cubes usually stay firmer than small diced pieces or strips, but the texture is largely up to the cook.
After choosing the eggplant, cooks should typically decide what else they want to include in this recipe. Grated carrots, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, onions, and garlic may all be used. Chives, bell peppers, radishes, baby corn, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts are also options, though they’re not as popular as the first group of veggies. Typically, the additional ingredients should be chopped or julienned just like the eggplant to create an even texture in the stir-fry.
Soy sauce, fish or oyster sauce, and chili pepper sauce may all be used to top eggplant stir-fry. The cook may combine all four different sauces, use just one, or pair two of them for a dish with a wide variety of flavors. Typically, the sauce is added when the vegetables and meat begin to brown and soften. This usually ensures the sauce doesn’t cook away before the dish is finished. Some cooks like to top an eggplant stir-fry with fresh chopped spinach, green onions, or parsley when it is done.