On a recent trip to Shenzhen, China, two colleagues and I went to a restaurant for dinner and happened onto a dish that was splendid to look at and delicious to eat. As we looked at the menu, the picture caught my eye: stripes of red, green, yellow, and brown.
What is this?, I asked my Chinese-speaking colleague. He asked the waitress, and then told me it was eggplant underneath, and the stripes were red pepper, garlic, and such. We ordered it, and we all loved it. I decided I’d try making something like it at home.
I did that the other day. I wanted to make it vegetarian, so I replaced the ground pork (the brown strip) in the original with chopped brown mushrooms. I had a bunch of zucchini in the ’fridge, so I used that instead of eggplant for the base. And I made up a Chinese sauce on the fly — any tasty brown sauce will do, so try something based on hoisin, or oyster sauce, or black bean sauce....
Here’s the result (click the image above to see how it looked):
Vegetable with garlic sauce, festively presented
About four zucchini or Chinese eggplant, sliced (see instruction 5)
Chopped fresh garlic, about 3 tablespoons
Hot red chilis, sliced or coarsely chopped, about 1/4 cup
Chopped brown mushrooms, about 1/2 cup
Chopped fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup or so
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup water
- Get some rice started, if you want to serve rice with this. No, that’s not in the ingredient list.
- Using a little mild cooking oil, sauté the garlic on low heat for a few minutes to soften. You want the colour, so don’t brown it. Set the lightly cooked garlic aside in a small bowl.
- Do the same for the chilis, setting them aside in a separate bowl.
- Sauté the mushrooms, and cook them until they get a nice, dark colour and lose much of their water. Set them aside in a third bowl.
- Mix the hoisin, soy, sesame oil, and water, and set that aside. Alternatively, make up whatever sort of Chinese brown sauce you like.
- I like to slice the zucchini or Chinese eggplant (the long, thin ones; don’t use the big fat ones we usually find in American stores) by cutting them in half lengthwise, then slicing each half crosswise on a diagonal, about 1/4 inch thick. That makes slices that are a good size and shape, and that look nice. However you do it, slice your vegetable.
- Get a large pan nice and hot, with a couple of tablespoons of mild cooking oil in it. Make sure the pan is hot before you add the vegetable.
- Sauté your sliced vegetable until it’s almost cooked — it should be tender, but not falling apart.
- Add the sauce and finish cooking, letting the sauce reduce.
- Transfer the vegetable to a nice serving plate, and spread it evenly over the plate.
- Using the chilis, garlic, cilantro, and mushrooms, cover the vegetable with stripes (see the photo).
- Take a picture.
- When everyone’s ready to tuck into it, use chopsticks or a spoon to mix it all around. You’ve destroyed the lovely look, but now it’s all about the taste.