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today's special | Yu Hsiang Eggplant 
This spicy eggplant dish is a little sweet, a tiny bit sour, and highly flavorful. My momís version includes ground pork, but the dish tastes just as good if you omit the meat. Eggplant is such a "meaty" vegetable in texture that itíll still make a very filling meal, when paired with a big bowl of steamed rice.

4 small eggplants
[Chinese/Japanese variety, the slender ones, are best]
1/2  pound lean ground pork/turkey [optional]
3 cloves garlic
2-3 stalks scallions 
2 tsp chili bean paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 -1 tsp vinegar
[if youíve got a mild vinegar like rice vinegar, use 1 tsp; otherwise 1/2]
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cornstarch paste
[cornstarch mixed with water]
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cooking oil
time 30-40 min
serves 3-4

1. Cut the eggplant into 2" long sections. Halve, then cut into thirds or quarters [you want sticks of eggplant approx. 2"x Ĺ"x1/2" in size]. Steam the eggplant [use any steaming method; I usually place a steaming rack in my wok, add half cup water, + turn the heat to high. I then place the ingredients on a dish, and place the dish on the rack in the wok. After that I simply cover and steam.] The eggplant will take approx. 15-20 min. to cook. When tender [that is to say, you can easily poke a chopstick, fork, or whatever utensil you prefer through one of the pieces], remove from heat. If the veggies are sitting in a deep pool of liquid, drain, but not too thoroughly. Set aside.
2. Mince 3 cloves garlic; chop 2-3 stalks scallions finely. Set aside 1 tbsp chopped scallion for garnishing the final dish.
3. Heat 1 tsp cooking oil on medium [if using an electric stove, heat on high]. Add Ĺ pound ground pork [skip to step 4 if youíre doing the vegetarian version ]. Break up the pork using a metal spatula to help it cook quicker.
4. When the meat is no longer pink, add the chopped garlic and scallions. Stir.
5. Add 2 tsp chili bean paste, 1 tsp sugar, Ĺ-1 tsp vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp soy sauce, then stir. Let cook for 1-2 min.
6. If the mixture looks very dry, add ľ cup water.
7. Taste; add more salt if it doesnít taste salty enough, more chili bean paste if itís not spicy enough, a pinch more sugar if you find it a tad too salty.
8. Stir in the cornstarch paste; cook until the sauce thickens [a minute or two].
9. Pour into a shallow bowl and drizzle with sesame oil. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions. Serve with plenty of steamed white rice.


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