The Exquisite Cantonese Eggplant Delight

The Culinary Magic of Cantonese Eggplant

Today, we introduce the Cantonese eggplant delight, a classic yet extraordinary dish set to enchant your palate. Its distinction? The magic unfolds with the unique taste ushered in by the Cantonese salted fish, elevating this casserole to new culinary heights.

For those familiar with Cantonese cuisine, salted fish is more than just an ingredient. It’s an emotion, a nostalgic reminiscence, especially among the older aficionados like Bill. Just the thought of it makes him light up with anticipation. And if you’re ever fortunate enough to meet him, you’ll witness this firsthand!

A Dive into Mei-Xiang-Ma-You

In the world of Chinese salted fish, one variant stands out: mei-xiang-ma-you. This salted fish is unique due to its two-step preservation – fermentation followed by salting. Its distinctive aroma and texture create a love-it-or-hate-it scenario. But, if you’re somewhere where this delicacy is hard to come by, fret not! A close second in terms of flavor are the salty, rich anchovies. Available in most grocery stores, they provide a nuanced nuttiness to the dish. However, for those raised with the traditional casserole, it might be tempting to double up on the salted fish to hit that nostalgic note.

All About Eggplants in Casserole

When it comes to selecting the right eggplant, Chinese variants, characterized by their elongated shape and a soft purple hue, are the best pick. But, if you’re unable to procure them, any available variant will suffice. A crucial step in the preparation is frying the eggplant, ensuring the vegetable retains its quintessential character throughout the cooking process.


  • 4 oz. thinly sliced pork (or chicken; 110g)
  • Cornstarch: 2 tablespoons and an additional 1/2 teaspoon
  • Eggplant, preferably of Chinese/Japanese origin: 1 1/2 pounds (680g)
  • Canola oil: 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) for frying and an extra 1 tablespoon for cooking
  • Minced ginger: 3 slices
  • Chopped garlic: 4 cloves
  • 2 scallions (separate and chop the green and white parts)
  • Deboned and minced Chinese salted fish: 1 oz. (30g) (Anchovy fillets can be a replacement)
  • Sugar: 1 teaspoon
  • Chinese black vinegar (typically found in a yellow bottle labeled “Chinkiang Vinegar”): 1 teaspoon
  • Dark soy sauce: 1 teaspoon
  • Light soy sauce: 4 teaspoons
  • Water: 1/2-3/4 cup (adjust based on your cooking conditions)

Steps to Create the Magic

  1. Prep the pork or chicken by tossing with 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch and setting it aside. After washing the eggplants and patting them dry, slice them into 2-inch x 1/2-inch dimensions. For even coating, place these slices in a large zip-top bag and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
  2. For frying, heat 1 1/2 cups of canola oil in a pot on medium flame. The right temperature can be gauged by placing a bamboo or wooden chopstick in the oil – lookout for bubbles. Fry the eggplant in batches for about 2 minutes each and let them drain on paper towels.
  3. In a wok, heat a tablespoon of oil on medium flame. Toss in the ginger, garlic, and the white parts of the scallions. After about 30 seconds, introduce the pork or chicken, followed by the salted fish or anchovies. Continue to stir-fry until the meat appears cooked.
  4. As you incorporate the eggplant, sprinkle sugar, vinegar, both soy sauces, and the green sections of the scallions. Pour in 1/2 cup of water and stir well. The cornstarch from the eggplant will help in thickening the sauce. Adjust the water quantity based on the desired sauce consistency. The key is to retain some sauce without making the dish too watery. Ensure the eggplant remains firm and retains its shape. Once satisfied with the consistency and the flavors melded perfectly, serve it hot with steamed rice and savor every bite!

Additional Insight

  • The Cantonese Eggplant Casserole has a rich history and is deeply rooted in the traditions of Cantonese cuisine. It’s a dish that beautifully captures the essence of its ingredients while offering a delightful texture and a symphony of flavors.
  • When using anchovies as a substitute for salted fish, it’s essential to understand that while they offer a unique taste, they don’t overpower the dish. This balance ensures that the eggplant remains the star of the show, complemented by the meat and the rich sauces.
  • This dish isn’t just a treat for the taste buds; it also offers several health benefits. Eggplants are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. When paired with protein-rich pork or chicken and the beneficial oils of anchovies, this casserole becomes a nourishing meal that’s as good for the body as it is for the soul.
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