One-Bowl Meal: Chinese Eggplant and Tofu

I’ve tried cooking with eggplant in the past, and haven’t had too much success with it. I’ve found that the most common variety of eggplant (sometimes called globe eggplant) has a thick skin and a texture that remains chewy, even after it’s cooked.

I love ordering eggplant when I go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant, however, and when I saw Chinese eggplant available at my farmers market, I immediately bought a couple to try cooking at home.

After a few attempts, I finally mastered the cooking method. The trick is to cook the eggplant on an open plate in the microwave. This releases some moisture in the eggplant and compresses air pockets. This, in turn, keeps the pieces of eggplant from soaking up lots of oil when you saute them later on. I learned this great technique from Cook’s Illustrated, and it resulted in creamy chunks of eggplant.

This recipe is a variation of one of my go-to one-bowl meals. While it’s summer and Chinese eggplant is readily available, I’ll always be making this version.

This recipe serves two comfortably for dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small-medium Chinese eggplants
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 8 ounces firm tofu (half a package) cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • Garlic salt
  • Soy sauce
  • General Tso’s sauce
  • 3-4 scallions minced, dark green part removed
  • Sesame oil and vegetable oil

Step 1. Boil 1 cup of water and begin cooking the rice. Start the rice 10-15 minutes before you start making the rest of the dinner.

Step 2. Slice each eggplant in half and then make 3/4-inch pieces. Put the eggplant on a microwavable plate covered with paper towels and salt it with 1/2 teaspoon table salt. The salt will draw out the water and the paper towels will soak it up. Cook in the microwave for 10 minutes on high, lightly tossing the eggplant pieces after 5 minutes.

Step 3. Drizzle sesame oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Begin cooking the ground turkey, breaking it up into small pieces. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger and garlic chili sauce. Season lightly with garlic salt and soy sauce.

Step 4. The eggplant will have reduced in size considerably, so it will be no trouble to fit in a large saute pan. First heat a combination of 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil until shimmering. Then add the eggplant and cook until well browned, 5-7 minutes.

Step 5. Add the ground turkey and tofu and cover with about 1/4-cup of General Tso’s sauce. Stir and simmer until integrated. Turn the heat off and add the minced scallions, stirring once more. Serve over the brown rice.

  • Lydia

    I’d given up trying to cook eggplant. I’ll have to try your method.

  • Robert

    This is a delicious dish; I made it tonight for my wife and me. Flavors are nicely balanced and integrated, textures (eggplant, tofu, turkey, rice) are individual and distinguished, scallions added at the very end, and still fresh, contribute flavor and a satisfying crispiness.

    Two questions from a neophyte cook: 1) How big is “minced”? Garlic and scallions, both “minced” look(?) like they’re quite different in size; and 2) What’s the difference between a “frying pan” (Step3) and a “saute pan” (Step4)?

  • Mary

    I’ve been looking for how to cook eggplant with a thin skin. I’m so glad to know about this technique of precooking in the microwave!!

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