From the team behind Mao Chow, Mao Chow Express has launched at Boxpark Shoreditch, specialising in Sichuan-inspired dishes. At Mao Chow Express, all of the food is vegan and inspired by takeaways, with bold flavours, fragrant spices, and a touch of nostalgia. This yu xiang aubergine recipe, for instance, pairs soft roasted aubergine with the restaurant’s take on a yu xiang sauce, celebrating grilled chillies alongside ingredients such as doubanjiang, salted red chilli, garlic, and spring onion, topped with fried and crushed peanuts.
“Yes! Vegetables taste best at the peak of their season. And yes! We should all eat as seasonally as possible. But during this long winter apocalypse, treat yourself to some aubergines without guilt – and slather them with our version of yu xiang sauce. While we were inspired by the Turkish grilled chillies all around us in East London, grilled chillies have also become popular in Sichuan, so we feel in good company in this spin on the traditional sauce.
“Some notes on Chinese ingredients – our preferred doubanjiang for this recipe is Chuan Lao Hui hot broad bean paste, which has a small layer of chilli oil on top, as it has a younger flavour than regular doubanjiang – but it will still be delicious with regular doubanjiang from a tub or pouch – try to avoid jars. The chopped salted chilli is a sour, fermented product you can find in jars of brine (rather than vinegar) – sambal oelek will do if that’s all that’s available.
Serves 2 for dinner, with rice and some simple greens stir-fried with garlic and light soy sauce. We serve it just gently warm, but it’s also delicious hot.”
- 1 large aubergine
For the sauce
- 1 long turkish green chilli or mild Polish long green chilli
- 1 ½ tbsp rapeseed oil
- ½ small garlic clove
- 1 spring onion whites only (keep the greens)
- 1 level tsp 5-spice
- 1 tbsp doubanjiang gently heaped
- 1 ½ tbsp chopped salted red chilli
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 thumb ginger for 1 tbsp peeled and chopped
For the topping
- 2 tbsp peanuts fried and crushed
- Reserved spring onion greens thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp chinkiang vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 170C. Roast the aubergine for 22 mins, then turn over, and roast for another 22 mins.
- Burn the chilli directly over a gas flame, or lay directly on the glass of a ceramic hob, turning every 1-2 minutes until blackened all over. Set aside to cool while you measure out the sauce ingredients – as with most stir-frying, it’s important to have all the ingredients ready to go before cooking.
- Finely chop the burnt chilli, crush or mince the garlic, thinly slice the spring onion whites, and peel and finely chop the ginger. Notice how the ginger has stringy fibres running along its length – try to slice across those to avoid strings in the finished dish.
- On a medium heat, fry the garlic and white spring onion, until softening and smelling delicious.
- Add the 5-spice, disperse in the oil, and then add the doubanjiang. Turn up the heat to medium-high and fry the doubanjiang for around 1 minute – some caramelisation on the bottom is good, but be careful not to burn it.
- Add the pickled chilli, sugar and light soy sauce, and mix everything together well.
- Add the ginger, so that it cooks through by the time the sugar has dissolved – we don’t want to cook it for too long.
- Remove from the heat, and check seasoning – it should be rich and a little sweet.
- Slice the cooled aubergine in half longways, and slather on the sauce. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, spring onion greens, chinkiang vinegar, and enjoy.