I have always been a disciplined person. My belief is that life without a plan makes for one that is unproductive and a waste of precious time. As such, I have always been very regimented with my schedule in order to make use of every second in the day. However, this regimented way of life, if not cautious, could slowly and unknowingly become monotonous. Each day would become black and white, colourless, and tasteless. One day no different than the other.
One evening while I was walking home, I listened to the podcast of Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing”. In that episode, one interviewee mentioned that he needs to create something everyday, no matter how small it is. That is because it is in the process of creating that we feel unique as an individual, that we feel alive, and not just another object marching amongst a group of daily commuters day in and day out.
In listening to that, it reminded me to go back to writing on this website. I have been extremely busy in January and early February due to work, and have placed this personal project of mine on the backburner. Coming back to writing, photography, and cooking helps me define myself. It makes me feel unique, differentiating me from others. Building something, not caring about what others may think, gives me a subtle sense of pride that I could not distinctly describe.
This recipe came about on a whim when I couldn’t resist buying the dark purple eggplants gleaming on the supermarket shelves. This is a dish that my mom used to make. I love heaping spoonfuls of this dish into a bowl of white rice until the contents roll down from the top. The spiciness adds flavour to the soft tofu and eggplant, and at the same time increases the diner’s appetite. The ground pork acts as a binder to the entire dish, marrying all the ingredients together.
SPICY EGGPLANT WITH MINCED PORK AND TOFU STIRFRY (makes 4-6 servings)
- Marinade for ground pork:
- Light soy sauce – 3-4 tsp
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Corn starch – 2 tsp
- Cooking oil – 2 tsp
- Xiao Xing cooking wine – 2 tbsp
- Grounded white pepper – 1 tsp
- Lean ground pork – 1 lb
- 3 Chinese eggplants – cut into strips or chunks, about 1 inch in thickness, steeping in salty water (steeping the eggplants in salty water prevents the flesh from discolouring into a brown colour)
- Tofu (regular stiffness) – 1 box, about 500 grams, cut into 1 cm cubes
- Oyster sauce – to taste, about 3 heaping tbsp
- Chinese chili bean sauce (Doubanjiang) – 1 heaping tbsp
- Marinate the ground pork with the light soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, cooking oil, Xiao Xing cooking wine, and grounded white pepper. Mix thoroughly and set aside for at least 15 minutes at room temperature.
- In a wok or a deep pan, add some cooking oil and set the stove to medium heat. When the oil is heated (you can tell if it is runnier in the pan. Oil is less runny when it is cold), add the ground pork and stir fry until the meat is browned and slightly burnt. Make sure that you stir the meat frequently so the ground pork doesn’t cluster into large clumps.
- Strain the eggplants from the salty water and add them to the wok. Stirfry with the ground pork until evenly distributed and the eggplants are cooked, about 3-5 minutes. Then, add the oyster sauce and stirfry again until even distributed into the ingredients in the wok. Add the tofu cubes and stirfry carefully, so that the tofu doesn’t breakdown into even smaller pieces (or else you would be left with a tofu paste).
- Finally, add the chili bean sauce into the wok and stirfry until the sauce is heated and is evenly coated all ingredients, about 2-3 minutes. The dish is now done and ready to be served.
(This post and recipe was posted first at http://www.yuenshan.com)