Living in China often means a constant overloading of the senses. The sights, the smells, the noise, the food, and the sheer number of people all make it impossible to go a day without experiencing something new. This is even more so the case when you’re a young, white, American couple that recently moved to China and who stick out like sore thumbs wherever they go.
While there are so many things that Brett and I absolutely love about China, there are quite a few things that make us do a double-take or that cause us to compare our current living situation here in China with our comfortable lives back in America. Soon enough we won’t think twice about aspects of the culture here, but for now we’re trying to embrace and take note of all the “craziness” we see.
I thought I’d share with you all a short list of some of the “scenes” either Brett or I have experience over the past few weeks. (Some material may not be suitable for children.) 🙂
Women crouching over a bowl of chicken intestines, cleaning the long coils with their fingers.
A taxi driver running over a little boys foot, the boy hobbling the rest of the way across the street, and the taxi driver not stopping to see if the boy was okay.
A grown man emerging from the woods, soaking wet, sporting only some whitey-tighties.
Grown men walking around shirtless, rubbing their bellies.
Employees taking part in synchronized dancing outside of their work places before their shift begins.
Sichuan peppers that literally numb your mouth.
Kids peeing on the public streets.
Intense spices wafting in through our kitchen window, making us choke and cough.
The smacking, slurping, chewing, and chomping of the locals as they eat.
The city square full of the elderly doing “Zumba” together at the end of the day.
A local showing you a video of his relative eating a ginormous grub and having all the guts dribble down his chin.
Being served ENTIRE sparrows which are mean to be consumed in whole. (Yes, bones, intestines, head and all. Thankfully Brett was the one who experienced this!)
Noodles, noodles, rice, steamed buns, rice, noodles, rice, rice, steamed buns, noodles…
FISH FLAVORED EGGPLANT!! One of the many Chinese dishes we’re more than happy to eat.
And lucky for you, I’m sharing the recipe today! One of my first memories of Fish Flavored Eggplant was when Brett and I took a cooking class last year during our visit to China. We were taught to make four different dishes and Fish Flavored Eggplant was one of them. It was love at first bite. While the name confuses many, there is no fish or fish sauce involved in this dish. That means that us plant-eaters are free to get excited!
One of the main ingredients in this Vegan Fish-Flavored Eggplant is a chili bean paste called Doubanjiang. You can easily find it at your local Asian market or on-line. Additionally, including crushed Sichuan peppercorns will make this dish more authentic, but feel free to omit them if can’t find them or simply aren’t a fan (like Brett). Other than those two ingredients, the rest of the ingredients for this dish are probably already in your pantry or are at least easy to purchase.
Perfectly balancing sweet, spicy, and sour flavors, a bite of this dish will cause a flavor explosion in your mouth. Serving this rich and flavorful dish will definitely impress your family and friends and it’s a great way to experience some authentic Chinese cuisine.
I hope you give this recipe a try! If you do, let me know what you think. Even better, take a picture, post it on Instagram, and include the hashtag #theconscientiouseater so I can see your creation!
- 2 long Asian eggplants (long and skinny) (1¼ lbs.)
- 2 tablespoons oil*
- 1½ tablespoons Doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
- ¼ cup vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce**
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 4 Scallions, sliced on the bias
- Chop eggplant into 1 x 2 inch pieces. Place the eggplant into a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Allow the eggplant to sweat for 30 minutes so that some of the moisture is released.
- While the eggplant is sweating, prepare the ginger and garlic and measure out the remaining ingredients.
- After 30 minutes, add 2 tablespoons of oil to a wok and let it heat up over medium-high heat. Sauté the eggplant until starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Add in the chili bean paste, ginger, garlic, and optional Sichuan peppercorns and continue to cook until you can smell the aroma of the spices.
- Add in the vegetable broth and sugar and mix well.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot powder in 1 tablespoon of water. Then pour the mixture into the wok and allow the arrowroot powder to thicken the sauce.
- Lastly add in the vinegar and green scallions and stir a couple more times.
- Remove from the heat, plate, and serve over steamed rice!
**Sub Tamari if gluten-free.