Eggplants can be tricky to cook due to their ability to absorb a significant amount of oil. So steaming them is a perfect way to avoid that problem. Steaming not only transforms this dish into a super healthy one, but also preserves the Chinese eggplants’ delicate and tender flavor. Adding garlic while the eggplants are still piping hot helps to remove most of garlic’s raw, spicy, and pungent taste, leaving the dish with a fragrant and mild garlicky flavor. The sauce is intentionally kept light to further accentuate the Chinese eggplants’ subtle sweet flavor.
This Chinese steamed eggplant with garlic dish is very versatile, and can be enjoyed both hot and cold, and as an appetizer or a main dish. I’ve made this dish many times for my family. So far everyone likes it, including my 3.5 years old son (he does ask for milk when he bites into a garlic piece). My parents and in-laws especially appreciate the simplicity and healthiness of this dish.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
- 2 to 3 Chinese eggplants1
- 4 garlic gloves
- ¼ cup loosely pack cilantro (can be substituted with equal amount of parsley)2
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce3
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Heat a steamer or a large pot with a steamer rack over medium-high heat. Make sure the water does not exceed the steamer rack.
- While waiting for the steamer’s water to boil, mince the garlic. Use the back of a chef’s knife or a cleaver to first crush or smash the garlic to loosen the skin. After skin is peeled, using two hands to gently rock the chef’s knife back and forth across the pile of garlic to mince it. Depending on personal preference, garlic can be further minced into a paste by crushing the minced garlic with the back of a chef’s knife and continuing to rock the knife back and forth across the minced garlic. Alternatively, you can use a garlic press to make garlic mince/paste.
- Wash the Chinese eggplants and remove the end with the stem. Cut them into 2-inch long thin wedges. Arrange the wedges onto a plate (can be stacked).
- Wash the cilantro and chop it into small pieces.
- When the water in the steamer is boiling, carefully transfer the plate with the eggplant wedges onto the steamer rack. Close the lid and let steam for 8-10 minutes.4
- When the timer is up, turn off the heat and carefully transfer the eggplant wedges into a deep bowl. While the eggplant wedges are steaming hot, add the garlic, cilantro, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.
- Gently stir to combine. Transfer to a plate after evenly mixed.
- You can find Chinese eggplants in most Asian and international super markets. Chinese eggplants have a thin skin and long figure. They have very few seeds, which make them much less bitter and more delicate and flavorful. Japanese eggplants are a good substitute if you can’t find Chinese eggplants. When picking Chinese eggplants, look for ones that have a deep purple hue, smooth skin, slender shape, and intact stem tip. The skin of Chinese eggplants are quite thin and do not need to be removed.
- Cilantro also has an acquired taste. I have heard that to some people who lack (or have, depending on your perspective) a certain gene, cilantro might even taste like soap. If cilantro is not your thing, skip it or substitute it with equal amount of parsley leaves.
- Here I used San-J gluten free soy sauce, which makes this dish gluten free as well. But any light soy sauce (not the kind for coloring purpose) can do the job. Kikkoman, Pearl River Bridge（珠江橋牌）, Lee Kum Kee （李錦記）are some of the common Asian soy sauce brands. You can find them in most grocery stores and supermarkets.
- Make sure you do not over-steam the eggplants as over-steaming can change eggplants’ color from purplish to brownish.