Make Hannah’s Chinese fish-fragrant aubergines, then check out her Chinese braised winter squash, Chinese dry-pot cauliflower and more Chinese recipes.

This recipe comes from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen by Hannah Che (£25, Random House Inc).

If you aren’t a fan of aubergine, it’s because you haven’t had this dish yet. Sichuan cooks fry aubergine until its golden and buttery, then braise it briefly in a sweet and sour sauce. This double cooking transforms the aubergine’s rather chewy, bland, spongy flesh into buttery and tender morsels that melt in the mouth, made irresistibly heady with garlic and enlivened by hot pickled red chillies and ginger. According to legend, the dish originated along the banks of the Yangtze River in Sichuan, where fishermen often cooked their catch using a pungent mixture of chillies, ginger and garlic. Today this ‘fish-fragrant’ flavour is a standard in the canon of Sichuan cooking, with its distinctive hot, sour and sweet profile.


  • 450g long Chinese aubergines or Japanese aubergines (about 3 small)
  • 360ml vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • 60g potato starch or cornflour
  • 1 ½ tbsp Sichuan chilli bean paste or pickled chilli paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated


  • 120ml unsalted stock (any kind) or water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chinkiang black rice vinegar
  • ½ tsp potato starch or cornflour


  • STEP 1

    To make the sauce, whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Cut the aubergines lengthways into sections, then slice into 1.5cm wedges. Put 1½ tbsp sea salt in a large bowl with 720ml water and whisk until the salt dissolves. Submerge the aubergines and soak for 15 mins – salting helps to relax the flesh, reduce bitterness and prevent it from soaking up excessive oil. Drain and pat the wedges dry.

  • STEP 2

    Heat 360ml oil in a wok over a medium-high heat. Coat the aubergines lightly in the potato starch or cornflour. When the oil reaches 190C (when a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds, it’s ready), fry the aubergines in batches, flipping and turning occasionally, for 3-4 mins or until the edges are slightly golden and the skin is glossy purple and wrinkled. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Pour the oil into a heatproof container and reserve for another day, leaving about 1 tbsp oil in the wok.

  • STEP 3

    Re-heat the wok over a medium heat. Lower the heat and stir-fry the chilli bean or pickled chilli paste for 30 seconds until its red oil is released. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onion whites, and stir-fry for another 30 seconds until just aromatic. Push the aromatics up one side of the wok and pour the sauce mixture into the middle.

  • STEP 4

    Gently fold the fried aubergine into the sauce and simmer for 2 mins until the aubergine absorbs the flavours and the liquid thickens. Transfer to a plate, garnish with the spring onion greens and serve immediately.

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