Hakka Stuffed Eggplant (客家酿茄子)

Hakka people love to make all kinds of stuffed food, such as stuffed tofu, pepper, bitter melon, mushroom… This has something to do with their history. The ancestors of the Hakka people have migrated southwards several times since the Qin dynasty because of social unrest, upheaval, and invasions from the northern provinces. When they moved to the south, they had to change their diet from wheat to rice. Therefore, they couldn’t make dumplings anymore so they came up with the idea of stuffing the filling into all kinds of ingredients. I guess you can consider this as a dumpling variant.

Hakka-style stuffed eggplant is my favorite. I am going to show you a trick to simplify the stuffing process –  very interesting and it tastes delicious.

INGREDIENTS

For the filling

  • 400g (14 oz) of white fish fillet, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp of chinese cooking wine
  • 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil
  • 2 tsp of finely minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp of finely minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of diced scallion
  • 2-3 tbsp of water as needed

To make the sauce

  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • Some Black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of water

Others

  • 2-3 Chinese long eggplants
  • 3 tbsp of cornstarch to coat the eggplants
  • 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil to pan-fry

INSTRUCTIONS

The filling is really easy to make. You just throw everything into the food processor and it will come out nice and smooth.

I am using Dover sole fillet as the main ingredient. You can also use other types of lean fish. If you don’t like fish, you can switch to shrimp, chicken, or pork.

Roughly cut the fish fillet into big pieces and put it into the food processor. Season it with 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of sugar, 1/2 tsp of sweet paprika, 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch, and 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine. Drizzle in 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil, 2 tsp of finely minced ginger, 1 tbsp of finely minced garlic, and 1/4 cup of diced scallion.

Use the on and off mode to blend everything for 20-25 seconds. Don’t grind the meat too fine. It is better to keep the texture a little rough. Remove it from the food processor and check the texture of the filling. If it is too dry, you can stir in 2-3 tbsp of water. This will help the filling stick onto the eggplant better.  Set the filling aside.

Next, we will talk about eggplant. I have 2 types on hand. Both will work but I do want to show you the difference between them.

The left one is long and skinny, I got it at an Asian market. This is what I recommend using because it is very tender; the seeds inside are soft as well.

The right one is short and fat. This is available in regular supermarkets in the USA. The outside skin and the seeds inside are tougher, which is very annoying while eating.

Slice the eggplant at a 45-degree angle into 1 centimeter thick pieces. When I was little, the way my mom sliced the eggplant was keeping every 2 slices attached like that. Then she will stick the meat in between to create a little sandwich. But this way, the meat is sticking out from the side of the eggplant, which makes it difficult to pan-fry. That’s why I like to cut the eggplant into slices. You might wonder, Mandy, how do you stuff the eggplant onto a single slice? Wouldn’t it fall off while cooking?

Well, here is my trick. Line all the eggplant slices on the cutting board. Put a few tbsp of cornstarch into a sieve. Lightly dust the cornstarch onto the eggplant cut surface. Rub it with your hand to even it out. Flip them over and dust the other side. Rub it again. This will prevent the meat from falling off and it also creates a starch layer on the outside of the eggplant which helps to catch more flavors from the sauce.

Ok, I think we are ready to stuff the eggplant. Take a slice. If you see the cornstarch layer is too thick, you can scrape it off by using the dining knife. Spread a small amount of filling onto the eggplant slice. Be sure to use a little force. This will wet the cornstarch and help the meat to fully make contact with the eggplant so it doesn’t fall off while cooking. Then you can put more filling on the top. Use the knife to shape the edge.

Hakka people love to make all kinds of stuffed food, such as stuffed tofu, pepper, bitter melon, mushroom… This has something to do with their history. The ancestors of the Hakka people have migrated southwards several times since the Qin dynasty because of social unrest, upheaval, and invasions from the northern provinces. When they moved to the south, they had to change their diet from wheat to rice. Therefore, they couldn’t make dumplings anymore so they came up with the idea of stuffing the filling into all kinds of ingredients. I guess you can consider this as a dumpling variant.

This recipe is enough to stuff 3 long skinny eggplants, off course, it depends on the size of your eggplant.

Before cooking, let’s quickly make a sauce. In a sauce bowl, combine the following ingredients: 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of oyster sauce, 1 tsp of cornstarch, some Black pepper to taste, and 1 cup of water. Mix well and set it aside.

Next, is the pan-frying. Preheat your cast-iron skillet over medium heat for a minute. Then drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Place in the stuffed eggplant with the meat side down. This pan can only fry half of the eggplant so we will have to cook them in 2 batches. In restaurants, this dish is normally deep fried, which is much faster. But i think pan-frying is more friendly for home cooking and it comes out equally delicious anyway.

Once the meat side is golden brown. Flip it and fry the other side for a minute or 2. Pour in the sauce. Be careful with the hot steam. Don’t burn yourself. Remember, if you fry the eggplant in 2 batches, you will have to devide the sauce in half too. Let the sauce bubbling in the pan. At the same time, move around the eggplants so they can absorb more flavors.

That looks so good. Carefully take them out and place them onto a plate. If you want to make a nice presentation, you can line them into cycles. Sprinkle some died scallion as garnish. Let me show you – my chopsticks only clipping onto the eggplant side, and I am shaking it pretty hard. It doesn’t fall off. That’s the cornstarch trick. I love to eat this with white rice. It may not look like it has a lot of sauce in the plate but the eggplant absorbed so much flavor and it just melts in your mouth. The filling is nicely seared and very savory too. If you consider this is a dumpling variant, I will say it tastes better than dumplings.

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5 from 6 votes

Hakka Stuffed Eggplant (客家酿茄子)

Hakka people love to make all kinds of stuffed food, such as stuffed tofu, pepper, bitter melon, mushroom, eggplant... This has something to do with their history. The ancestors of the Hakka people have migrated southwards several times since the Qin dynasty because of social unrest, upheaval, and invasions from the northern provinces. When they moved to the south, they had to change their diet from wheat to rice. Therefore, they couldn’t make dumplings anymore so they came up with the idea of stuffing the filling into all kinds of ingredients. I guess you can consider this as a dumpling variant. Stuffed eggplant was a regular dish on our dinner table. In this recipe, I am using Dover sole fillet as the main ingredient but we have tried shrimp, chicken, or pork. They all taste delicious. 

Ingredients

For the filling

Others

  • 2-3 Chinese long eggplants
  • 3 tbsp of cornstarch to coat the eggplants
  • 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil to pan-fry

Instructions

  • Roughly cut the fish fillet into chunks and put it into the food processor along with the rest of the filling ingredients. Use the on and off mode to blend everything for 20-25 seconds. Don’t grind the meat too fine, otherwise, the filling will turn out too mussy. Remove it from the food processor and set it aside.
  • Slice the eggplant at a 45-degree angle into 1 centimeter thick pieces. Place all the slices on the cutting board. Put a few tbsp of cornstarch into a sieve and lightly dust onto the eggplant cut surface. Repeat this on the other side. Don't dust too much, otherwise, the filling can not attach well. A thin layer of cornstarch will prevent the meat from falling off and it also creates a starch layer on the outside of the eggplant which helps to catch more flavors from the sauce.
  • Spread a small amount of filling, 1/2 tsp will do, onto the eggplant slice. This will wet the cornstarch lightly and help the meat to fully make contact with the eggplant so it doesn’t fall off while cooking. Then put more filling, about 1.5 tbsp, on the top. Shape the edge with a dining knife. This recipe is enough to stuff 3 long skinny eggplants, of course, it depends on the size of your eggplant.
  • Before cooking, combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set it aside.
  • Add vegetable oil into a frying pan. Place in the stuffed eggplant with the meat side down and pan fry over medium heat until golden brown. Flip it and fry the other side for a minute or 2.
  • Pour in the sauce. Be careful with the hot steam coming out. Move around the eggplants so they can absorb more flavors. If your pan is not big enough, you can fry the eggplant in batches. Just remember to divide the sauce in half too.
  • Transfer the eggplant to a plate. Sprinkle some diced scallion as garnish. Serve with white rice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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