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Sichuan Braised Pork with Eggplant

Eggplant comes in myriad sizes, shapes and colors. The most commonly available is the globe eggplant, which is large and pear shaped with thin purple-black skin. Asian eggplant, usually smaller and more slender, can be deep purple, lavender or white. Look for specimens that feel firm and heavy for their size, have smooth, shiny skin and are free of bruises.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. corn or peanut oil
  • 1 1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 lb. Asian eggplant, cut into cubes
  • 4 thin slices fresh ginger
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Steamed rice for serving

Directions:

Sear the pork
Warm a Dutch oven or large, deep fry pan over high heat until very hot and add 2 Tbs. of the oil. Add the pork in a single layer and sear, turning once, until golden brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a plate.

Braise the pork and eggplant
In a large bowl, stir together the water, soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, five-spice powder and cornstarch.

Return the pan to high heat and add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil. Add the eggplant and sauté until lightly browned and just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a bowl. Return the pan to medium heat, add the ginger, 3 Tbs. of the green onions and the garlic and sauté for about 10 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in the seared pork, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the pork is tender, 60 to 70 minutes. Uncover, add the reserved eggplant and simmer until the eggplant is tender and the flavors have blended, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the remaining green onions and serve with steamed rice. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Asian, by Farina Wong Kingsley (Oxmoor House, 2007).