Kid-friendly Sweet Yu Xiang Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Sweet Yu Xiang Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice

Recipe: Sweet Yu Xiang Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice

Sweet Yu Xiang Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice

by Dylan Sabuco
Photo by Natasha Breen/Shutterstock.com
prep time
12 minutes
cook time
20 minutes
makes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Sweet Yu Xiang Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice

When Chef Dylan was 19, he had a roommate from China who would cook Dylan the best ginger fried rice whenever he was sick. Today's dish takes all the warming, stomach-soothing elements of that dish and combines them with hearty, healthy, YUMMY eggplant!

Here’s something else you might not know: Yu Xiang sauce originated in the Chinese Province of Sichuan, which is known for its agricultural riches. In fact, there’s such an abundance of food and farming that the province is known as “the land of plenty.” Well, there’s plenty of flavor in Yu Xiang sauce: it’s sweet, sour, salty, hot, and tangy—so it literally has ALL the flavors going on!

Here's what our Sticky Fingers Cooking Chef Instructors and our students had to say about this recipe: 

  • “My Monday class at The Meridian School just loved the Chinese Eggplant Yu Xiang (despite their initial trepidation regarding eggplant). They were clamoring for seconds and thirds!” - Chef Gary, Austin TX
  • “My students said this was the best recipe yet!!! Yeah for eggplant!” - Chef Rachel, Austin TX

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • boil :

    to cook a food in liquid heated to the point of gas bubbles and steam forming (boiling point is 212 F at sea level).

  • chop :

    to cut something into small, rough pieces using a blade.

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • stir :

    to mix together two or more ingredients with a spoon or spatula, usually in a circle pattern, or figure eight, or in whatever direction you like!

  • stir-fry :

    to cook meat, fish, or vegetables rapidly over high heat while stirring briskly—used in Asian cooking.

Equipment Checklist

  • Saucepan + matching lid
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Fork
  • Large sauté pan or wok
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Blender
  • Whisk
scale
1X
2X
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4X
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7X

Ingredients

Sweet Yu Xiang Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice

  • Steamed rice:
  • 1 C instant white rice
  • 1 C water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Stir-fry:
  • 1 eggplant (if unavailable: sub 1 zucchini, 1 blk firm tofu, or 10 small mushrooms)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper
  • 2 tsp ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp mild chili powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper

Instructions

Sweet Yu Xiang Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice

1.
intro

Greet your family with a "Nǐ hǎo" (knee-how) ("Hello" in Chinese). Today's recipe is Sweet Yu Xiang (You-SHang) Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry with Steamed Rice!

2.
measure + boil + stir

Measure and combine 1 cup instant rice and 1 cup water in a small pot over medium heat and cover with a lid. The lid is important to create steam within the pot. Steam will give the rice a fluffy texture. Boil for roughly 5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and small holes appear at the surface of the rice. Season with 1 pinch of salt. Stir gently with a fork, cover, and reserve for later.

3.
chop + measure

Chop 1 eggplant, 1 carrot, 2 green onions, and 1 bell pepper. Combine them all in a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, measure and combine 2 teaspoons ginger root, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1 pinch of salt, and 1 pinch of black pepper.

4.
toast + stir fry + serve

Add the mixture of oil and spices to a large sauté pan or wok. Turn the heat to medium. Stir until the spices begin to sizzle. Toasting the spices like this will make them all a bit more potent. After about 30 seconds, add all the vegetables and stir! Continue cooking, stirring constantly until all the vegetables are soft and glazed with all the spices, about 10 to 12 minutes of cooking time. Serve hot out of the pan over steamed rice with a drizzle of Spicy Sweet Garlic Sauce (see recipe).

Surprise Ingredient: Eggplant!

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Photo by BearFotos/Shutterstock.com

Hi! I’m Eggplant!

"I'm the star of this dish, the exciting Eggplant! You might think of me as a vegetable, but I'm actually a berry! Not only that, but I'm large and oblong (that's a long oval shape), and I'm purple! Some of my eggplant cousins are short and plump, and have white streaks, but we all wear the same perky green cap, and we're all good to eat!"

History

  • The eggplant was called the Mad Apple for hundreds of years before people were actually brave enough to try eating it. People worldwide thought it was poisonous, so it took a long time before someone was brave enough to take a bite.
  • Eggplant is widely believed to be native to India. In fact, it is known as the King of Vegetables in India. Eggplant still grows wild in India!
  • Chinese emperors enjoyed eggplant way back to as early as 600 BC. How's this for an interesting fact: Ladies of China found it fashionable to stain their teeth black way back in 600 BC, and they would use eggplant skins to make a black dye for their teeth!
  • Eggplant eventually made their way around the world with global explorers, but people used them more for table decoration than food for hundreds of years because they were afraid they'd be poisoned if they ate them!
  • One story tells that when eggplant was brand new to France, King Louis XIV wanted to impress guests at his royal table, so he had his gardeners plant eggplant in his garden. Do you think his diners were impressed? They were not! They described the eggplant as "fruits as large as pears, but with bad qualities." 
  • King Louis XIV cooked them and served them to his guests anyway, without them knowing. And they didn't get sick! This is because he had done his research first and found out that once eggplant mature, they are safe to eat and are actually quite delicious!

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Eggplant are technically berries, not vegetables! Are you surprised? What are some other fruits commonly mistaken for vegetables? How about cucumbers and tomatoes?
  • Did you know that eggplant and tomatoes are related? That's right—they both belong to the Nightshade family, along with potatoes and peppers. 
  • The standard eggplant is oval or pear-shaped, glossy-skinned, or purple. However, there are many different varieties of eggplant around the world. For example, eggplant can be white, green, round, small, long, purple-and-white speckled, cream-colored, or deep purple.
  • With eggplant, bigger isn't necessarily better. The smaller the eggplant, the sweeter it tends to taste.
  • Eggplant does have seeds, but once they've developed seeds, their flesh becomes pretty bitter. That's why it's best to harvest eggplant before their seeds become too big. 
  • Europeans gave these berries the name "Eggplant" in the middle of the 18th century because the variety they knew looked exactly like Goose Eggs! 
  • Another name for eggplant is "aubergine" (ober-zheen), adapted from the original Arabic name al-badinjan.

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • When buying eggplant, look for smooth skin, even color, heavy-in-the-hand, and no bruises. Squeeze the eggplant gently with a finger and then let go. If the eggplant is fresh, it will bounce back again. The stems should be bright and green. 
  • Store eggplant overnight at room temperature and plan to use it soon after bringing it home. If you are storing it for longer than a day, wrap it in a plastic bag and place it on a shelf in the fridge. 
  • The skin of the eggplant is edible, but many recipes advise peeling the skin before cooking because the flesh is sweeter and more tender, while the skin can be tough. 
  • Eggplant is a very watery vegetable, and this is why many people like to salt their sliced eggplant before frying them to remove some of the excess moisture. They also used to be much more bitter, so people would add salt to them to cut the bitterness. Eventually, growers bred the bitterness out of the plants. 
  • Eggplant can be roasted, baked, fried, sauteed, grilled, braised, stir-fried, and stuffed. The only way we wouldn't suggest eating eggplant is raw. While it is not harmful in small doses, eggplant is so much more delicious when cooked. 
  • Eggplant is in peak season from August to March—they love hot weather!

Nutrition

  • The color of a fruit or vegetable tells us what nutrient it contains (nature is amazing!). Orange vegetables and fruits have special nutrients. So do green vegetables. Purple eggplant also contain a nutrient that gives them their color: anthocyanin. It's an antioxidant also found in red or purple grapes, blackberries, blueberries, plums, red cabbage, red onions, and prunes. 
  • Brains! Did you know that the brain is made up primarily of fat? Eggplant has a unique nutrient that's been shown to protect the fats in our brain. When we safeguard the fats in our brain, we make it possible for brain cells to send signals back and forth to each other—which is a very good thing! We need our brain cells to talk to each other!
  • Fiber! We often talk about fiber when we reveal our Surprise Ingredient, and that's because vegetables and fruits contain a lot of fiber. Eggplant are no exception. What does fiber help with? Digestion! And which body parts are responsible for digestion? Many, but namely our stomach and intestines. We definitely want to keep those running in tip-top shape!

 

History of Stir-Fry!

Photo by Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock.com
  • Stir-frying began in China, possibly as early as 400-500 CE. It became more common during the late Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Chinese cooks would place a "wok" (pronounced like "walk"), a deep frying pan with a wide bottom, over a flame in the hole of a simple stove to cook meat, fish, and vegetables. 
  • Chinese immigrants eventually brought their stir-frying cooking method to America in the mid-1800s. Then, in the 1970s, with the trend toward healthy eating and using fresh ingredients in recipes, along with their busier lifestyles, people wanted a quick, easy way to cook healthy food, and stir-frying became more popular. As a result, you could find a wok in more kitchens than ever before!
  • To stir-fry, you continually stir until the dish is finished. The wok was created to go over an open flame. Woks have slanted edges to disperse the heat while cooking. When one vegetable is finished cooking, push it up the edges (which are cooler so those veggies do not burn), then place the next veggie in the center. Using this method, you can cook all the food for your stir-fry at the same time.

Let's Learn About China!

Photo by XiXinXing/Shutterstock.com
  • China's official name is The People's Republic of China. It became a republic in 1912; however, the first Chinese dynasty appeared around 2100 BCE. China is one of the largest countries in the world, and it has the most people!
  • The official language of China is Mandarin. However, various dialects are spoken in different regions of the country. For example, in Shanghai, they speak Shanghainese.
  • China is around the same size as the continental United States but only has one official time zone. The continental US has four.  
  • China's capital city is Beijing, while the most populated city is Shanghai.  
  • The Great Wall in China is the largest man-made construction on Earth, stretching an incredible 5,500 miles. Its builders used mortar that included sticky rice to bind the Great Wall's stones! 
  • China's land is diverse, with high mountains, low coastal lands, deserts, and damp tropical areas. Just like the United States!
  • The Chinese are known for their papermaking, porcelain, and silk cloth. In addition to paper, they also invented the compass during the Han dynasty (202 BCE to 220 CE), woodblock printing in the Tang dynasty (by 7th century), gunpowder in the Tang dynasty (9th century), and movable type made of porcelain (for printing) between 1039 and 1048 CE, during the Song dynasty.
  • Chinese cuisine varies by region. Climate, local agriculture, ethnic and class backgrounds, and outside influences all contribute to China's food diversity. There are eight major regional Chinese cuisines: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan, and Zhejiang.
  • Wheat is farmed in northern China, so noodles and other foods made from wheat are consumed more in the North. On the other hand, rice is cultivated in southern China; therefore, rice is a staple in the South.  
  • Tea has long been part of Chinese culture across all parts of society. China was the first country to grow and drink tea and, today, it exports the most green tea worldwide.

What's It Like to Be a Kid in China?

  • School success is greatly emphasized in China. Chinese kids go to school five days a week (six days before 1995), and their school day runs from 7:30 or 8 am until 4 or 5 pm. After school, they might do homework for three hours.
  • In primary school, kids learn the Chinese language, which is made up of about 7,000 characters, not letters. The characters represent words. By the time they finish primary school, they will have learned about 4,000 characters. They will also learn a foreign language, especially English.
  • Kids may not have aunts, uncles, or cousins because, at one time, the Chinese government allowed couples to have just one child due to the high population. That later changed to two, and in May 2021, the policy changed again to allow three kids, so now a child may have a sibling or two. 
  • Some of the holidays that kids celebrate with their families are Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival, and National Day. National Day is celebrated with fireworks and parades to commemorate the formal proclamation of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. 
  • Kids enjoy playing ping pong, basketball, volleyball, and badminton. They also play video games and ride their bikes. 
  • Rice and noodles are staples, and kids may eat these at every meal. They'll eat their food using chopsticks, not forks!

THYME for a Laugh

Did you hear the tall tale about rice? 

There wasn’t a grain of truth behind it!

Lettuce Joke Around

What did one rice say to the other rice? 

"I hope I see you a-grain!"

The Yolk's On You

Where do chickens grow? 

On egg-plants!

The Yolk's On You

What do you call an eggplant that fell off the kitchen counter? 

A faceplant!

The Yolk's On You

What's purple, delicious, and fun to decorate for Easter? 

A hard-boiled eggplant!

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