Eggplant is notorious for absorbing the oil when it’s fried, so to solve that problem we start by stir-frying cubed eggplant in just a small amount of oil over high heat until crisp-tender. Then we add in red bell pepper and a spicy Thai chile, and finish by letting the eggplant soak up a tart glaze of tamarind paste, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Toss in a handful of Thai basil leaves at the end for a fresh touch.
What to buy: Shaoxing is a Chinese rice wine that can be found in Asian markets and in the Asian section of some high-end grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can substitute dry sake or fino (dry) sherry.
We prefer smaller Japanese or Chinese eggplants for this recipe since they taste sweeter and have fewer seeds, but larger globe eggplants will work well too.
Tamarind concentrate, sometimes labeled as tamarind paste, is a tangy, prunelike, seedless paste that is popular in Southeast Asian and Latin American cooking. It can be found in Latin and Asian markets or online. Avoid tamarind pulp, which contains large pitlike seeds.
- 1Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved; set aside.
For the stir-fry:
- 1Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or large frying pan (do not use nonstick) over high heat until a bead of water dances when dropped in the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- 2Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil around the perimeter of the pan and add half of the eggplant. Using a metal spatula, stir-fry until crisp-tender and charred in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with another tablespoon of the oil and the remaining eggplant.
- 3Drizzle the last tablespoon of oil around the perimeter of the pan and add the bell pepper, garlic, and chile. Stir-fry until the peppers are crisp-tender, about 1 minute.
- 4Add the reserved eggplant and any accumulated juices and stir to combine. Whisk the reserved sauce to recombine and add it to the pan. Stir-fry until the sauce has thickened, is glossy, and coats the vegetables, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the basil leaves, and toss to combine. Serve immediately with rice.