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Spicy Chinese Aubergine

gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, vegan

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR OF THE SHEEP!
Wishing you all the love, light, joy, peace and prosperity during this Year of the Yin Wood Sheep! Peaceful and grounded energies are upon us this year after a highly charged, energetic and at times frenetic Year of the Yang Wood Horse. To celebrate I hosted a Chinese New Year Supper Club on Sunday 15th February at Goldfinger Factory and had a fabulous group of people attend. What a blast! As most of you know, I am profoundly passionate about reinventing the image of Chinese cuisine as healthy, fresh and fragrant- and setting the record straight. 
As I know some of you are thinking: "How can Chinese food belong on this natural and whole food blog? It's not healthy at all, right?" Traditional Chinese cuisine has little to do with the oily, MSG-laden, sugar-soaked, deep fried "food" that masquerades as Chinese in most takeaway shops in the West. Unfortunately, most Westernised Chinese food is indeed unhealthy, full of artificial chemicals and I would genuinely never recommend you eat this (ever).
This unhealthy reputation is not entirely unfounded as indeed even in China, a lot of food contains MSG, refined salt and sugar, thickeners, preservatives and artificial flavourings. However, the basis of traditional Chinese home cooking is remarkably light, nutritious and well-balanced, bursting with antioxidant spices and an abundance of vegetables and gluten-free options. With a few simple ingredient swaps, classic Chinese dishes can be transformed into the most fragrant and delicious superfood! Just remove all artificially refined sauces and seasonings. See below for a quick guide to revolutionise your Chinese cooking into healthy, fresh and delicious food you can enjoy every day! 
DO NOT USE                                                  PLEASE USE
vegetable oils (ie.ncorn, soy, peanut)           mild olive oil or avocado oil
soy sauce                                                             gluten-free tamari 
refined salt                                                         sea salt or pink himalayan salt
white sugar                                                        rapadura, coconut sugar or maple syrup
potato/corn starch                                           you don't need this!!! 
One of the dishes I prepared for my Supper Clubbers on Sunday (that I made again today) was my all-time favourite Chinese dish known as yu xiang qie zi aka fish fragrant aubergine. This dish actually has no fish in it, the term "fish fragrant" in Chinese cuisine refers to a singularly succulent combination of distinct flavours: salty (sea salt), sweet (rapadura), sour (black rice vinegar), spicy (fresh chillies), garlic, ginger and spring onion. A Chinese New Year party in the mouth!
Using only natural, fresh and whole ingredients like sea salt and rapadura instead of their evil refined white counterparts, I recreated this delightful Sichuan dish as a wholesome and nutritious plate of goodness. Rather than deep frying the aubergine wedges in vegetable oil (eeekkkk!), I steam fried the aubergine wedges in some mild olive oil and water, and replaced the soy sauce with tamari and did without the potato/corn starch that most recipes call for.
Otherwise I kept to the traditional recipe, as it is full of wonderful antioxidant spices such as garlic, ginger, chilli and spring onion. And the result: utterly divine combination of flavours and melt-in-your-mouth aubergine! Without a doubt, just as good as the original version, I would even say better as it was much fresher but bursting at the seams with flavour.
Hope you enjoy this Chinese dish revisited à la Bain-Marie and to many more Chinese favourites without all the yucky ingredients...

Spicy Chinese Aubergine (yu xiang qie zi)

Ingredients:

  • 2 aubergines, cut into long strips
  • 2 tablespoons mild olive oil, divided
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 fresh red chillies, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, finely minced
  • 2 stalks of spring onion, chopped

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons black rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined sugar
  • ½ cup fresh filtered water

To garnish:

  • 1 spring onion (green part), finely chopped
  • Pinch of ground red Sichuan pepper (optional)

Instructions:

1.Slice aubergine into long strips about the size of chunky potato wedges.

2.In a large wok or pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and shallow fry the slices of aubergine

turning over to ensure both sides are cooked. After a few minutes, the flesh will go soft. (You can add some water here to steam fry).

3.Push aubergine aside in the wok. Turn heat down, and add 1 tablespoon of oil to fry the garlic, red chilli, ginger and spring onion. Stir these aromatics until they become fragrant.

4.Stir aubergine strips into the aromatic spice mix and stir fry for a few minutes.

5.Place all sauce ingredients into a mixing jug.

6.Stir in the sauce, simmer on low heat for 10 minutes until aubergines are melt-in-your-mouth soft.

7.Garnish with green part of spring onion and a pinch of ground red Sichuan pepper.

8.Serve immediately.

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