Eggplant (茄子 or qiézi) was one of the first words I learned in Mandarin back in early 2009, partly because we ordered it so often that it inevitably had to stick in my head, and partly because it sounded like a hybrid between cheese and chaise (as in longue). Kind of like ch’yay’zuh.
Except not really.
If you are anything like me, your tones will be so inconceivably wrong that you could say it every day for three years and still only get it right half the time.
And I do get practice saying it. We eat spiced deep fried eggplant slices, stewed umami eggplant fingers with sizzling red and green peppers, dry fried green beans with long melty lengths of lightly spiced eggplant with just a hint of pork crumble. At home, I’ve baked it and fried it and breaded it.
When I lived in Turkey, I lived on it.
And the thing is, until a decade ago, I thought I hated eggplant. I loathed it, in fact. It was on the list of things I told people I didn’t like, alongside all sorts of fungus and organ meats.
What I failed to realize, however, was that 1. I just hated those big spongy bitter eggplants normally sold in Canada and 2. I hate big spongy chunks of poorly prepared eggplant.
Those little tiny thin Asian and Turkish purple-black eggplants, properly sauteed or baked slowly and drizzled in olive oil? Those I like.
This recipe is astonishingly easy to pull together and really quite tasty, even for those who think they hate eggplant. It’s not at all spongy and it’s not at all bitter. It tastes even better, reheated over a propane camp stove three days later, eaten plain with a spoon in little unbreakable bowls in the wilds of Vancouver Island.
This is, as the name says, simple homestyle eggplant (家常茄子 – jiācháng qiézi). This is comfort food. (more…)