How to Cook Szechuan Crispy Eggplant With Yu Xiang Sauce

Iteration 1 – battered eggplant with simmered sauce

Yu Xiang means “fish-fragrant” in Mandarin, but I’ve avoided using the direct translation in this title to avoid confusion – there’s no fish in this vegan dish, much like there’s no seafood in hoisin (Cantonese for “seafood”) sauce. “Fish-fragrant” references the fact that the sweet, sour and spicy combination in the sauce is often used in fish dishes.

I’ve made this dish a number of times, varying the recipe on each occasion (tossing the eggplant with tapioca starch vs coating it with batter, mixing the sauce ingredients like a salad dressing vs thickening it in a saucepan vs frying the garlic first).

By the way, I’m not sure if it’s a Western thing, but I’ve never felt the need to pre-salt my eggplant (and neither has my Malaysian fellow foodie Selena Fong) – which conveniently cuts 30 minutes off the time it takes to cook this dish.


Iteration 2 – battered eggplant tossed in uncooked sauce mixture

Szechuan Crispy Eggplant With Yu Xiang Sauce


2 eggplants, cut into chunks

Batter –

100g tapioca starch (or cornstarch)

100g rice flour

100ml water

½ tsp salt

Oil for deep-frying


2 TBSP oil

1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns

2 TBSP garlic, minced



3 TBSP black vinegar

1 TBSP ground bean paste

2 TBSP sugar

1 TBSP light soya sauce

1 TBSP dark soya sauce

1 tsp chilli flakes

Sliced green onion for garnishing


  1. Combine batter ingredients and mix well with a whisk or in a blender.
  2. Heat oil to 180C. Dip eggplant pieces in batter, then deep-fry for a minute or so, or until they float to the surface and are crispy.
  3. Remove and drain on paper towels or in a sieve.
  4. Combine sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  5. In a separate frying pan, heat 2 TBSP oil, then add Szechuan peppercorns and lightly brown. Remove peppercorns and lightly pound and set aside.
  6. Add garlic to the oil and saute until aromatic, then add the sauce ingredients and the crushed peppercorns. Simmer until slightly thickened, then add the eggplant pieces and mix to coat.
  7. Remove, garnish with sliced green onion, and serve.


Iteration 3 – Eggplant pieces tossed in tapioca starch rather than battered

Nah, I’ll stick with plain rice, says Baby Noah. Yeah, he’s going through a plain-everything phase.



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