Region Introduction :
As complex the political history of Taiwan is, this vegan recipe to cook eggplants from Taiwan is equally easy, needs just one pot, and 15 mins from start to finish. Does this ever happen to you? Imagine a weeknight, it is almost dinner time, you have a lot of ingredients in the refrigerator but you are just not sure what to cook. This recipe can be your new best friend because of its versatility. It needs NO precise measurements that you need to remember and you can cook multiple dishes with this one method.
Taiwan also nicknamed “Ilha Formosa” or “Beautiful Island by the Portuguese is located in the Ring of Fire. Modern Taiwanese cuisine is full of salty-sweet foods packed with a ton of umami. Complex political history shows its deep impact on Taiwanese cuisine. Chinese brought the use of sweet and rustic flavors and elements like basil, mint, and sesame to Taiwan. Japanese colonization brought umami and Americans brought wheat to the island leading the dumplings to be the national sensation.
My thoughts on recipes in general:
I strongly believe in the idea that recipes should be treated as guidelines and not a sure shot gospel which upon the following word by word, you will find success. I always try to understand what the intent of the recipe writer is and where are they trying to take me through the steps of the recipe. Once you draw the rough image of the final product in mind, the cooking journey becomes much easier. In my experience, whenever I have followed this mindset, I am much more relaxed when I am cooking. Some recipes require you to pay attention to each and every word, every line, and each cooking duration that the recipe creator wants you to follow. On the other hand, some recipes are meant to be guidelines and have much more room for flexibility. If you try to understand the path and the end result and then improvise a couple of steps on the way, you will be fine and will still be satisfied with the end result. To beat this point to death, there is an age-long debate about whether cooking is an art or science. I think they are both. Some dishes require you to have the precision of a scientist like Macarons, baked Alaska. While other dishes need you to be an artist, play with a free spirit, and have fun. I bin pizza, stews, and stir fry in the latter category.
About the dish:
A modification of the more popular Three Cup Chicken recipe, this dish was introduced to me by Lisa (@meandmyfood2020) as a part my project Across Kitchen Lines, where I am reaching out to Chefs and Homecooks all over the world and we are cooking their local food and I am documenting my experience on my Instagram page and my blog.
This dish “Three Cup” Eggplant is a perfect candidate for cooking being an Art category. It is more of a method of cooking. You can make Three Cup Chicken, Three Cup Shrimp, Three Cup Tofu, Three Cup of anything basically. If you have an interesting ingredient to cook with this method, leave a comment.
A household staple, Three Cup Eggplant is very easy to make and gets its name from the way the cooking sauce is prepared for this dish. You just need to combine equal parts of sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine with some sugar. I prefer brown sugar for most of my cooking, especially if I am using it in sauces that need to be reduced. I feel it adds more complex flavor to the dish.
About the guest
“My name is Lisa and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was born and raised in Taiwan. I moved to the US in 97 and lived in NYC, Chicago, and now California. The first dish I have ever made was a soy sauce scrambled eggs. I was maybe 4 or 5 and I needed a stool to reach the wok.
I didn’t really start cooking until I was 12. The summer vacation means I and my younger brother stay home by ourselves. Eating frozen dumplings for lunch every day gets old really quick so I started to follow the recipe books that my mom had and started cooking- so it’s been a long time that I have been cooking 🤣🤣
To this day that same very old recipe books are still my favorite because you don’t get those down to earth home cooking recipe books anymore. They were Chinese cooking books by Huang Su Huei and believe it or not her books are in both Chinese and English. It was published in 1974. She was way ahead of her time!
I watched a lot of Foodnetwork shows and not Youtube. I am pretty old fashioned. My favorite chef is a Japanese chef – Masaharu Morimoto. I respect him very much for his talents and his attitude towards food. An excellent chef!
I chose “ three-cup eggplant “ because you cannot get a more authentic Taiwanese dish than this one. “three-cup” is a cooking method and you can cook pretty much everything in this method. The most famous three-cup dish is “ three-cup Chicken “ but you will see “ three-cup calamari “, “ three-cup frog”, “ three-cup fish” “ three-cup tofu”…..etc you get the idea.
The special thing I did in all my dish is to add love ❤️
In this three cup eggplant, my special trick is that put the eggplant skin side down on the hot oil first. This is how to keep the vibrant purple color of the eggplant!”
Lisa is of course a great cook. I have been talking to Lisa from past few weeks and she is just so much fun to talk to. In preparation for this post, Lisa walked me through the recipe, shared her tricks, helped me pick the right ingredients while I was at the store and contacted her Instacart shopper style. We discussed family values in our native countries and I am not at all surprised to learn that there are so many similarities especially our relationship and attitude towards our elders. Her instagram feed is an explosion of comfort food and her cooking is mostly but not limited to Asian food. If I was to summarize how I feel about her food, it’s a big hug from an Asian mother. I am so glad to “meet” Lisa and grateful that we got to work on this project together.
- 2lb Japanese eggplants
- 1/3 c sesame oil
- 1/3 c soy sauce
- 1/3 rice wine
- 3 tbsp sugar (brown preferred)
- 15-17 cloves garlic
- 12 slices of ginger (40gm)
- 1 large bunch of Thai basil (20-25 leaves)
- Slit the eggplant lengthwise in the middle and cut it into bite-size pieces, roughly 2 inches long
- Peel the garlic and slice the ginger and set aside
- Prepare the sauce mix by combining soy sauce, (half) sesame oil, rice wine, and sugar in a bowl and stirring them until the sugar dissolves. I generally do this by adding everything in a mason jar and giving it a good shake (with the lid on). This is the best way to make any salad dressing.
- Heat a large pot and add the remaining sesame oil
- Add ginger and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes until you see some color on them
- Add eggplant to the pot and let it sear for about 3-4 minutes. Move them around by just shaking the pot occasionally
- Add the sauce mix to the pot and give everything a good mix. Let eggplant cook in the sauce for another 5 minutes on medium heat until they are cooked to your liking
- Add Thai basil to the pot and give everything a gentle mix and cook for about a minute. Turn off the gas.
- Serve it as it is or with some rice on the size. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and a couple of fresh basil leaves
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 589Total Fat: 26gCarbohydrates: 82gFiber: 12gSugar: 26gProtein: 10g
Now, more than ever, when everyone is physically isolated, we need to talk to our loved ones and grab any ray of positive energy we can. For some it may be going for a jog, for others, it can be board games. If you find happiness in cooking and learning about new foods, check out Lisa’s beautiful comfort food creations on her page @meandmyfood2020.
Stock up on some sesame oil, rice wine, and soy sauce and you will always have an easy dinner recipe to go to. If you use this recipe to Three Cup any interesting ingredient please share pictures with me on Instagram @t_as_in_tarun or use #acrosskitchenlines. If you have a recipe you want to cook with me, count me in! Please send me a message or leave a comment.