This Spicy Chinese Eggplant and Tofu is pan seared with a crisp and FULL of spicy, savory, and comforting flavors. Throw on top of a hearty bowl of rice or quinoa for a delicious plant-based meal!
Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and when I see an eggplant dish on the menu, I can not resist it, especially at Chinese restaurants. When I go to Indian restaurants, cannot NOT get the baingan barta.
There is something about the eggplant texture, the crisp outside, and the ability to absorb savory flavors that I just can’t resist. Eggplant rivals broccoli and kale reeeeally hard for my top vegetables, and I’m honestly having an internal (and clearly, very important) debate right now on which is my favorite.
I made this Spicy Chinese Eggplant and Tofu the other week (yes, I am behind), and it was such a hit that it is now in our regular rotation.
This dish is vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based (whichever term you prefer) and it was very simple to make!
There is a little prep to remove moisture, and then a series of pan frying. I wanted to have the perfect sauce with soy and a touch of sweetness and pop of heat, and to be honest, I was quite impressed with myself!
First, prep the eggplant and tofu:
Both eggplant and tofu have a decent water content. In order to get those crispy charred ends we love, you want to remove some of the moisture. (Or it will steam in the pan.)
For the eggplant, slice into ~1 inch pieces and lay on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with Kosher salt on both sides and let the eggplant slices rest for an hour. When you come back, you will see water droplets. Pat dry, and coat with tapioca flour.
For the tofu, cut the block into cubes, and lay on paper towels for the same hour.
Brown the eggplant and tofu:
Using a hot pan and 1 tbsp of avocado oil per batch, lay the eggplant flat in a pan. Once it hits on the hot pan, don’t touch it! Allow it to sizzle and brown for 2-3 minutes, and then flip. Remove the eggplant, and do the same for the tofu.
After you fry the eggplant and tofu, set both aside.
Stir fry the garlic and ginger until aromatic. Add the tofu and eggplant back in, and add your sauce.
Stir a few times over high heat (I do more of a flipping motion), and you will see the sauce start to thicken. Remove from heat, and serve with your favorite base of rice or quinoa, and top with green onions and toasted cashews!
Fun fact: Which type of eggplant?
I call this a Chinese dish because it reminds me of my favorite Chinese recipes, but secretly, I actually use Japanese eggplants.
Japanese eggplant has a similar color to the American eggplant, but are longer and narrower. I love the ratio of skin to flesh, allowing the eggplant to take on plenty of flavor, but stay intact. The Chinese eggplant is a little lighter in color, and has a more mild flavor than the Japanese varietal.
Looking for something else to make?
Spicy Chinese Eggplant and Tofu
- 3 Japanese eggplant
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp tapioca flour
- 1 block firm tofu (14 oz)
- 3.5 tbsp avocado oil divided
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tbsp ginger, sliced
- 4 green onions
- toasted cashews (optional)
For the sauce:
- 3 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium
- 1.5 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp red pepper
- 1 tsp tapioca flour for the slurry
- 2 tsp water for the slurry
- Remove moisture from the eggplant: chop eggplant in ~1 inch slices (I like to cut diagonally). Lay flat on a baking sheet, and sprinkle salt on both sides. Let the eggplant and salt sit for 1 hour. Pat dry after an hour.
- Remove moisture from the tofu: chop into cubes, lay flat on paper towels for 1 hour. Pat dry.
- With your dried eggplant, toss in tapioca flour. (I find using your hands is the easiest way to get consistent coverage)
- Create the slurry: Mix the tapioca flour briskly with water to create a slurry.
- Combine the sauce: mix soy sauce, coconut sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper together. Add the slurry and mix well to combine.
- Heat a stir fry pan with 2 tbsp avocado oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, it's time to fry the eggplant. Spread the eggplant flat in the pan, and don't move it! When it starts to brown (after 2-3 minutes), flip to the other side and allow to brown for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan. (I typically do this in 2 rounds using 1 tbsp per round)
- Heat the pan with 1 tbsp avocado oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, it's time to fry the tofu. Using the same technique as the eggplant, fry the tofu 2-3 minutes per side, until browned and crisp. Remove from pan.
- Heat the pan again with .5 tbsp avocado oil. Stir fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant.
- Add eggplant and tofu back to the pan. Give your sauce a few good stirs (to make sure the tapioca is mixed well) and pour over the eggplant and tofu. Stir/flip a few times to combine well.
- Serve with brown rice or quinoa, and top with green onions and toasted cashews!
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