15-Minute Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce

June 4, 2015

15-Minute Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce

I was in line at a major retail the other day and there was this woman in a courtesy scooter with a basket full of groceries.
The clerk picked up the groceries and started scanning them, entering the code for the veggies that had no barcode to scan.
When he reached the eggplant, he put it on the scale and entered the code.
The eggplant was big, at $3.49 per pound it cost almost $6.
As the clerk put in the bag, the woman became livid.
She started arguing (more like screaming really) that eggplants are not sold by the pound, but by the piece. She threatened to take her complaints to the store manager.
The poor clerk - a young college kid - didn’t know what to say and was clearly shaken.
I tried to calm her down explaining that he had no control over pricing and that he just rang up the items.
But she was so mad, she left swearing she would never come back and shop only where the price was “fair” (her words).

Chinese Eggplant

In a way she was right, 6 bucks for an eggplant is out of control — produce shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg. But the poor clerk had nothing to do with the pricing. I didn’t see the point of taking it out on him.
If a grocery store is expensive, you’re free to take your business elsewhere.
For instance, you only need to shop once at Food Emporium or Gourmet Garage to never set foot in these stores again. Their prices are high on just about everything — it's as if a dollar or two have been tacked onto every grocery item in the store. Seriously.
Their produce is outrageously priced. Just to give you an idea, you pay $9.99 for a pint of strawberries, lemons are $1.49 each, and a small package of raspberries goes for $6.99 — I suppose millionaires shop there. I don’t.

Red Chili

Back to the eggplants. I don’t think I ever saw eggplants sold by the piece.
To be honest, I find it obnoxious to charge by the piece when the pieces are not uniform in size and the tradition has been by weight: Peppers, onions, potatoes, eggplants, etc.
I always feel I have been left the small ones, especially at the end of the day or end of the week.
I can understand unit pricing at farmers' markets and stands, where the vendors don't necessarily have scales with them, but it's odd to me that pricing produce by weight is not universal practice in other venues.

15-Minute Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce

Luckily, Chinese eggplants are never sold by the piece. They’re small and light, and frankly if they were sold by unit it would be a total rip off.
If you’re not familiar with the Chinese eggplant, it resembles a small zucchini. They are recognizable by their long, thin shape and unique violet coloring.
Chinese eggplants are sweeter and tenderer than your usual eggplant, and can be cooked without peeling or salting.
They’re awesome in stir-fries, like really awesome.

15-Minute Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce

This is really almost the only way I cook Chinese eggplant.
It’s a great combination of flavors — chiles, garlic, soy sauce and a touch of rice vinegar to balance the flavors out — and comes together in 15 minutes flat.
Serve it as a side to Chinese Orange Chicken, Mongolian Beef or Crockpot Honey Sesame Pulled Pork and it’s going to be epic. Like Epic, with a capital E!

15-Minute Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce

15-Minute Chinese Eggplant With Spicy Garlic Sauce                                              Print this recipe!
Adapted from SteamyKitchen

Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
3 small chinese eggplants, cut into long strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 scallion, green part only, chopped
1 tablespoon wheat-free soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or regular vinegar)
½ teaspoon raw coconut palm sugar (or honey or regular brown sugar)


Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok (or a large frying pan) over high heat. Swirl to coat to wok.
When the oil is sizzling, add eggplant strips in a single layer.
Cook for one minute, then flip over so they cook evenly.
Cook for further 2 minutes, flipping every now and then.
Push the eggplant on one side of the wok. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Add garlic, chili, and ginger. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir aromatics with eggplant.
Add soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and stir to combine. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes or until the eggplant starts to caramelize.
Sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve immediately!

Nutrition facts

One serving yields 149 calories, 7 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of protein.


  1. I used to order this dish all of the time! It was my favorite!! Definitely going to make it at home now :) thanks

  2. In my experience, here in the UK certain items are sold by the piece, such as eggplant - known locally as the aubergine! The large one in my fridge cost me 50p which is about 80cents I think. So $6 does sound outrageous to me too although I think I could have reined in my fury and shopped somewhere else. Or gone without, although my love of aubergine may not have allowed that... While I feel lucky that I can get one for 50p (or less, on a market stall at this time of year), having grown my own veggies and discovered how 'costly' it can be in terms of time, space, effort and water, the fact that Im able to spend so little on a non native vegetable is certainly giving me food for thought.
    Im not sure if I've commented on your blog before but i appreciate the effort you put into it and enjoy your posts a great deal. I'll definitely be trying out this recipe, with regular eggplant if I can't find the Chinese variety.

    1. 80c for an eggplant? I should move to the UK then...

  3. I have never had Chinese eggplant but I totally agree with your weighing system :) This looks awesome and I want that spicy garlic sauce on EVERYTHING now!

  4. Mike - this eggplant, all I can say is YUM!!! I adore Chinese Eggplant - I stay away from the pricey places, and get mine from this little store where no-one seems to speak English, but the prices are dirt cheap! Sauteed eggplant is so yum - my mom makes an Indian/Srilankan version that leaves my sis and I drooling!

    1. "The little store where no-one seems to speak English" -> where I but most of my groceries. I have a couple of favorites in Chinatown..

  5. I don't like it when people lash at clerks OR waiters - to me it shows tremendous lack of class and compassion. As you said, it is not their fault. Take your grievances with the big boss of the store. Or the owner of the restaurant...

    I love Chinese eggplant - haven't made it in a while. Time to fix that

  6. I love Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, I order it all the time. I can't wait to try it at home!

  7. So I went to the Food Emporium in Union Square last Friday and it made Whole Foods look like Wallmart.

    The poor checkout guy, just doing his job. He should make this recipe to heal the wounds. I wuld. I love eggplant and spicy style- Even better.

  8. Hi Mike, totally understand what you are saying, I go to certain shops for certain things, some things I know I have to pay more if it's what I really want. Don't want to but that's a reality. Love everything about this dish and Chinese eggplant.

  9. What?! 10$ for a box of strawberries?! They might have been special ones, perhaps even with some golden dust. You should have bought them just to check:) I do love eggplant, especially I do love them then they don't cost 6 dollars haha, but I haven't worked much with Chinese eggplant. You've got the hearty and scrumptious dish here, Mike - nicely done!

    1. $9.99 plus tax for a pint of average looking strawberries. I am not kidding...

  10. I write from Amsterdam and sadly here eggplants are charged by the piece. Most peppers too! The secret is choose the big ones of course and stare at people's face when only the small ones are left :)

    1. OMG I love Amsterdam, one of my fave cities in the world. My sis live over there and I spend almost every summer at her place.
      It's so awesome and tad expensive when it comes to grocery shopping, but so awesome nonetheless!

  11. Preach on, Alpha! I couldn't agree with you more here. We had so many awesome places to shop for cheap (and fresh) produce when we lived down in Atlanta. But ever since moving to upstate NY, it's been a different game. Produce is incredibly overpriced (although not as bad as those stores you mentioned...$10 for strawberries?! What are they thinking??) and oftentimes it's less-than-ideal quality. That's why we grow as much as we do during the summer months. We planted a Japanese eggplant this year. Probably not the same as Chinese eggplant, but I bet it would still be great in this recipe! #WolfpackProduceTruths

    1. I think I prefer Japanese eggplant over Chinese eggplant, but it's not that easy to find!

  12. That is crazy expensive, but seriously that lady needed to get a grip. I love this recipe Mike. {BTW, my daughters have started saying the word epic. I am going to make that comment "Epic with a capital E" to them. They'll die!}

    1. Go for it Katie, I can't wait to hear about their reaction! :D

  13. Yum, this looks like the perfect way to use up my currently-on-the-verge-of-molding eggplant. I can just imagine the almost 'meaty' texture! :-)

  14. Both eggplants and cauliflower are sold by the piece here, but also sometimes by the pound. You really have to watch it or you'll end up paying $12 dollars for 1 head of cauliflower!!! Loving every flavor in this dish and I can't wait to try it as a Meatless Monday!

  15. Chinese eggplant is one of my favorite veggies by far!

    And yeah, I've never seen eggplant sold by the unit...

  16. Made this today and it was great! Bold taste and so easy to make. Keeping the eggplant in big strips helped it not devolve into eggplant mush. I used several tablespoons of butter and it was still pretty low calorie. Excellent way to eat eggplant. I'm sensitive to chili peppers so I subbed in a teaspoon of chili sauce instead for the heat. I will be making it again.