A couple of years ago, before I started this blog, I spent some time in London. My husband was working there, which gave me a terrific opportunity to experience the city, the culture, and the food. While England isn’t exactly known for its culinary delights, I did have a few terrific meals on that trip. I remember one night in particular when we stumbled into a Chinese restaurant somewhere near Leicester Square. I wish I could remember the name of the place. But I do remember what we ate, especially one dish. It was a sweet and sour eggplant with red bell peppers. I enjoyed the dish so much that I wrote it down in my little travel notebook, with my best guess as to what the ingredients were. I loved the flavor combination—sweet, sour, salty, and just a little bit spicy. Amazing.
When I came home, I spent a few days trying to replicate the flavor. On the third try, my husband smiled. I’d cracked the code. Don’t you love it when that happens?
The best part about this dish is that it’s healthy and really simple to make. When poured over rice it’s a complete entrée, or you can make it a side dish for a larger meal. I made it for my family yesterday as a light dinner. As I was cooking, I realized I hadn’t shared the recipe with you all yet. How rude! I can’t keep all of this awesome flavor to myself, it’s just too easy and yummy not to share. So here you go!
This recipe is pareve and vegan. You can make it gluten free by using a certified GF soy sauce. Make sure it’s certified; most soy sauce does contain gluten, but there are GF brands out there. Eden Organic Tamari Soy Sauce is gluten free, and it’s certified kosher when it has a Circle K on the label. Also, if you like spice, be sure to add some cayenne pepper to the mix. It’s really spicy (we like spicy), so I made it optional– add with care!
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- 1 lb. Chinese or Japanese eggplants, cubed
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 tbsp soy sauce (for gluten free use a certified GF tamari sauce)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar (for gluten free use a certified GF vinegar)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional, adds spiciniess)
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp peanut oil (or another oil with a high smoke point)
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups cooked long grain rice, white or brown (optional)
- Place the cubed eggplant in a single layer on a cutting board or a bed of paper towels. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let stand.
- After about 30 minutes, water droplets will form on the surface of the eggplant.
- Rinse salt from the eggplant thoroughly and pat dry.
- Seed the bell pepper, then cut it into long thin slices. Cut the slices in half.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Reserve.
- In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch with 1 tbsp water till dissolved.
- Pour cornstarch liquid into reserved sauce, whisk till well combined.
- Heat oil in a skillet or wok over medium high till hot (not smoking). Add eggplant cubes and sauté till the edges begin to brown, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the red pepper slices and continue to sauté for 3-4 more minutes till the pepper slices are tender-crisp.
- Reduce heat to medium. Pour the reserved sauce over the top of the eggplant and peppers. Stir the sauce with the vegetables till they are evenly coated. Continue to stir till the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
- Pour over rice, if serving as an entrée. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top of the eggplant and peppers. Serve.