Spicy Vegan Chinese Eggplant


All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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Very quickly – let me report a story of frustration, disgust, financial devastation & simple kindness.  In March, while I was celebrating an anniversary of sorts in Memphis with this shady character,


my housesitter reported that the tub had backed up with black sludge & wasn’t draining at all – even over an entire day.  I had been out of town for a week already & was remaining away for nearly another week which meant he had to handle the plumber situation for me.  I got a great referral & the plumber fixed the problem for $650 but left my dining room looking like this.


A few months later, another bathroom on a lower floor also began to back up but, this time, with raw sewage.  Ugh!  When the same plumber came to deal with that issue – he noticed I had hung a piece of art over that hole in the dining room wall.

“You haven’t repaired that hole yet?”


“You might just want to leave that art there then.  Because it is just a matter of time until I will need to get back in there.”

Say, what?  I had all the plumbing replaced on this house when I bought it 16 years ago.  Why should I be facing recurring issues like this?

He mumbled something about “old pipes” and went to the yard to access the clean out thingy & snake the main line.  Lots of drama & a high pressure water thing & the house seemed restored.  This was another $500.  The work was guaranteed for 6 months.  Six months & two weeks later – the sewage problem recurred – this time – flooding a carpeted room with the foulest waste and dumping said foul sewage into my yard, too.   Good-naturedly, he fixed the pipe again & for free, but I still had to get Stanley Steamer out to salvage the carpet and I did a bit of human waste removal myself in the yard so that it would be safe for dogs.  YUCK!  He gave me a long sob story about his truck getting stolen with $50K worth of tools in it that were uninsured.  For this reason, he was unable to give me any real estimates on my options to more permanently solve my “roots in the pipe” plumbing issue.  He told me to call him in a few weeks & said that when he had replaced his equipment – he would come bid options like some resin coating that is guaranteed for 30 years but costs $100 a foot (and my line to the main sewer is over a hundred feet long, easy, even by my own estimation).  I’m not sure if I can think of a less sexy way to spend $10K.  $10K spent INSIDE my house would make this place feel like I had moved up in the world.  I could change/fix everything that needs it so badly – from floors to painting to tile repair.  But spending $10k for underground pipes, more than half of which are under my neighbor’s yards & under the sidewalk & street – well – that just feels like losing it in a fire.

Fast forward 6-8 weeks from that SECOND repair job.  Oh no!  Raw sewage again – in both the lower bath & the yard!  Criminy!  I called my plumber.  Oh, yeah – he is on vacation because he is getting married this weekend.  “Call Mike Diamond.  They will charge you $99,” he says & hangs up.

Yeah, well, Mike Diamond wanted $350 to clear the line with ZERO warranty.  I complained.  They said I should call Roto Rooter.  I did.  $450 – but with a 3 month warranty.  So – I did that.  And then because the repair guy seemed SO nice – I asked him to bid a more permanent solution because, at this rate, I’d need emergency repairs every three months at $500 a pop.  He ran a camera or something and came back & said that the bad news was that a section of pipe was nearly destroyed by roots & the issue would definitely keep repeating but the good news was that the damaged pipe was in an easily accessible area of my yard – rather than under a deck or something in my neighbor’s yard.  The cost to fix it?  $3600.  And that resin stuff that my other plumber said costs $100 a foot – Roto Rooter does for $50 foot but, it seems, I have 183 feet of pipe to reach the city sewer.  That would be a $15,000 job!

So – I bite down hard & agree to the $3600.  They were here yesterday in sweltering heat, digging a trench & cutting roots & whatever else they do.  At lunch time, the repair guy knocked on my door & said they were going to lunch.  He asked if I cared to join them.  I said thank you, but no.

“What?  You don’t like Chinese?”

After some back & forth with him – with me declining all offers of food – he asked, “If you get Chinese – what do you order?”

“Shrimp or veggies,” I said.  “But don’t get me anything!  Really!”

An hour later – he delivered a piping hot container of shrimp fried rice to my door!  Can you believe how sweet?  I had it for lunch & dinner yesterday.  And I nearly cried into it – overcome by disproportionate gratitude that someone out there saw that I needed a weency bit of kindness.

And, when the work was done, he brought this pipe to my door to show me the problems.


Look at the image of the roots!  Am I supposed to believe that those grew like that in just the last 6-8 weeks since my plumber was last here?   I asked the Roto Rooter guy.  Years, he said.  Years.  And there is no way it had been cleared in the last two months – let alone twice in the last 8 months.  He believes my old plumber was just meting out temporary fixes to either keep making $500 every six months off of me or to get me so panicked that I went for a far more costly repair.   When I mentioned that I had been told to leave the dining room wall open for future access he said, “Uhm – isn’t that a red flag for you?”

And so there you have it.  I’m $3600 poorer but I had a lot of shrimp fried rice for that money.  And my new guy said that the warranty on the drainage for the entire line would be for a year.  He also told me to call him in 11 months & he would do a “warranty servicing” on the pipe for free – as the work would still be covered – thereby extending the one year warranty to two.  Aw!  See?  There are still nice folks out there and, right about now, I REALLY needed to cross paths with one.


This dish is SO easy & outrageously delicious!  It is also genuinely spicy but you can control that level yourself.  I used Japanese eggplant – at least I think they are Japanese.  They are long & thin – like a forearm.  You can use any kind you find available.  With rice, this would feed two people very well.


Spicy Vegan Chinese Eggplant


2 large Japanese eggplants (or 1 large regular one or equivalent) – cut into 1 inch cubes

1 onion – diced

Thai basil (or red basil or regular basil) – chopped – optional

Sesame oil

Coconut oil

6 garlic cloves – chopped

4 TBS minced ginger (I used jarred)

3 TBS brown sugar

1 TBS sriracha

2 TBS sambal oelek (or chili garlic sauce)

2 tsp molasses

3 TBS reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used homemade I had leftover but jarred or canned is fine)

1 TBS rice vinegar

1 TBS white vinegar

Crushed red pepper


Sesame seeds

1/2 cup water

Scallions – green parts sliced – as garnish





One reader recently expressed disgust with the quantities of oil & soy sauce I used in this.  If you are looking for a lighter dish with less sodium – use a low sodium soy sauce ( I ALWAYS do) and/or use less of it & cut the oil to the minimum required to cook each step of the recipe without it getting too dry or burned.  In fairness – there really is a generous amount of oil in my directions below & cutting it down won’t hurt flavor much – if at all.

Heat 2-3 TBS sesame oil in a pan & add the eggplant.  Add a little salt & some crushed red pepper.  Saute over medium heat until tender but not mushy.  Maybe 5-8 minutes.  Set aside in a bowl.


Using the same pan, heat 1 TBS coconut oil & saute the onion with a bit of crushed red pepper.  When soft – add to the bowl with the eggplant.


In the same pan, heat 1-2 TBS coconut oil.  Add 2-3 TBS sesame seeds & the garlic & the ginger.  When the garlic begins to brown add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, srirachasambal oelek (or chili garlic sauce), molasses, soy sauce, rice vinegar, white vinegar & water.  Simmer over med-low heat for ten minutes.  Add the eggplant & onions & simmer another 5 minutes.  Stir in some chopped basil (if using).

Serve over rice garnished with additional chopped basil, the scallions & some additional sesame seeds.  Drizzle with a small amount of sesame oil.



76 thoughts on “Spicy Vegan Chinese Eggplant

  1. Please YELP that company so other folks can now have a better idea of whom to call. The Angies list doesn’t take ads, yet if you work for the nefarious you go ahead and post wonderful things about some really shoddy peeps. That’s why I yelp for help. (It also is really apparent when the not so honest folks are pretending to be clod ts there because they get called out on the BS. (The bathing film takes a whole new angle thinkin on that sludge, poor kid!)


  2. Just made it. Left out sriracha …and eyeballed everything.. 😉 Delicious! my new fave eggplant recipe. I’m never leaving this place!


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  4. OMG I can’t believe how unhealthy this recipe is. 6 tablespoons of oil, and enough sodium to cause kidney failure… for TWO people? Yikes! I want to live a few more years thanks.


    • Say Fran – while I appreciate there is a liberal amount of sesame oil in this – I never claimed it was a low cal or healthy dish. And – if the levels of oil & sodium offend you – simply reduce them to levels you are more comfortable with. I do that all the time when I modify recipes (I usually use less oil & more spice than others suggest). The dish is certainly quite tasty but I imagine it would be as yummy if it was lightened up a bit.


    • Wow, no need to be rude. As Christine stated (and she shouldn’t even have to), you are OBVIOUSLY more than welcome to cut back on anything you do not like. In addition, NO ONE ever said you HAD to use this recipe so living “a few more years thanks” is up to you and what you choose to put in your body. No need to knock down anything that is not up to your IMPECCABLE standards of health.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Holy cow are you a nutball! If you were eating a steak, 2oz. would have more fat than this and would not be healthy fat. When cooking a bland vegetable you need to do something to give it flavor, or most people are not going to eat it. If you want to live on plain veggies, do so but don’t knock someones recipe that they graciously shared. By the way, I would highly recommend you read some current research on fat intake. Your brain needs fat to function.


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  6. I found the directions incomplete. You don’t address the garlic to the vinegars. I was wondering when to put all of this into the recipe.


    • I am confused about your question. Did you not see this part under the picture of the cooking onions? I think the recipe is complete. Maybe the page had not fully loaded because of all the pictures?

      “In the same pan, heat another 2 TBS sesame oil. Add 2-3 TBS sesame seeds & the garlic & the ginger. When the garlic begins to brown add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, sriracha, sambal oelek (or chili garlic sauce), molasses, soy sauce, rice vinegar, vinegar & water. Simmer over med-low heat for ten minutes. Add the eggplant & onions & simmer another 5 minutes. Stir in some chopped basil (if using).”


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  8. Typically, sesame oil is intended as an accent flavouring mainly because of the low smoke point. Adding several drops to regular peanut or canola oil will give better results as a cooking medium.


  9. this was pretty amazing! used the minimal amount of oil, no ginger & subbed a bit more sriracha for the garlic chili paste. also had to use ground cayenne for the red pepper flakes. Sufficiently spicy! served w brown rice. i don’t care if it’s “unhealthy” ~~ it’s delicious & i can’t wait to make it again!


  10. looks good but I must say reading about backed up, raw sewerage in a food article is definetely unappetizing! Yuck!


  11. This was so, so good! I used less than the minimum amounts of oil you suggested, and I don’t think it hurt it at all. I used your measurements for everything else, and I wouldn’t change any of them, except the Sriracha; our household loves heat, but the tablespoon of Sriracha plus the red pepper flakes created a lot of it. I think I’d cut back on it next time, so that the other yummy flavors can shine more. By the way, with two large Japanese eggplants, we had enough for two servings plus leftovers. This is going to become a regular dish at our house. Thanks so much!


  12. SUPER yummy!!!! VERY flavorful and the spices were prefect. I always make a new recipe exactly as written and then later modify as I see fit. I would not change a thing!!! My husband heated up the left overs a few days later and ate it like a dip with chips!! LOL Thanks again for a well written recipe!


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  15. I made this today and it was delicious. I used fresh ginger and cooked this up with some pad thai noodles and bean sprouts. I actually used more oil then listed as our active family does enjoy a high fat diet of good fats


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  17. Thank you for sharing this recipe. A neighbor gave me a whole bunch of Japanese eggplant from her garden and I am running out of ideas what to do with them and found your recipe in Pinterest. I tweaked it a little and added ground turkey for protein, cut back on the oil and the chili/sriracha. This is absolutely divine, my hat’s off to you. I will definitely make it again.


  18. I almost never comment on recipes (too lazy, don’t want to get roped into some troll’s argument) but this eggplant dish was everything I wanted it to be! Thank you!!! I found it on Pinterest while looking for vegan recipes and I followed it to a T – and I’ve always wanted to understand how to do a Szechuan eggplant dish like I might get in a Chinese restaurant. This was perfect. Thank you.


  19. This was terrific! Never used canned tomato in an Asian dish – wonderful! We used less than 1/3rd of the oil and found it very flavorful. Added broccoli and carrots. Used broth rather than water in the recipe. Was so creamy and yummy and spicy. It’s a keeper! Thanks!


  20. Just made this for dinner and found that by it ended up a little oily for my tastes, so I added some shredded chard and some fava beans for texture and some nice greens and cut the sugar a bit. Threw it all over some soba noodles and went to town! Thanks for the recipe, it was fun to play with


  21. So I made this last night for my husband and myself, we both loved it! I did read some of the comments first and not feel the the dish too oily as others did (although I did not drizzle the last bit on at the end). I even went to town with the coconut oil while cooking! As long as your using good oil, I never really think of oil as a health issue personally, but perhaps for some it is. I did swap out the brown sugar with coconut sugar, just because I normally do in recipes (it makes me feel better) and if you really want to err on the healthier side, use coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce 🙂 I admit I did reach for the soy sauce, as I didn’t want to mess with the recipe too much…trying to keep it t as authentic as possible, but I just could not do it. I even had the low sodium, but after reading that it’s still 700 mg per TB and the recipe called for 3, I could not go through with it, lol. Honestly in the end it tasted great so I don’t know if I would have noticed the difference either way. People have to look at it this way: is it a salad, no, it is what it is, Chinese food and yes it’s rich. However it’s a WAY healthier, cleaner (especially if you sub coconut sugar and aminos) version of what you would get if you ordered in or ate out. My husband and I never eat Chinese food because of how it’s normally prepared so having this recipe is awesome!


  22. I just made this tonight! It was delicious! I’m not sure how much oil I added – just enough to keep things from sticking, basically. I didn’t add quite as much ginger just because I’m not a huge fan although I do like if it’s not too prominent. I cut the spice just a little bit which I think worked well for my spice level tolerance – which is fair but I don’t think as high as yours! 🙂 And I added tofu because I love tofu! Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ll definitely be making it again!


  23. I love this repipe! Thank you.
    I cut down on the oil by adding water to both the eggplant and onion when it looked a little dry.
    Thank you so much!


  24. This recipe is so delicious that I had to share it with others. The sauce is so flavorful and spicy which we love. Today I’m making the sauce to use on baked chicken and salmon. It’s so delicious I plan to make it and keep it in the fridge for veggies and meat. I love that you can put your own spin on the sauce and it’s still delish!


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  26. This recipe is amazing! I have been making it for years and love it, and I make it for ‘meat and potatoes’ people and they love it too! I don’t think you need to cut down the oil at all, it is made with good quality oils, healthy and flavorful!


  27. This looks very good, but when I do eggplant, I roast it whole (no oil) peel it and cut to desired size. When I sauté, I use veggie broth, water or white wine, depending on what it is I’m doing. This will be a hit, I’m sure. I also tend to cheat and use the jarred ginger and garlic. But, what the heck. Thanks for this! 😃🙏

    Liked by 1 person

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