1 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes (or 1/2 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce ), or to taste1/8 tsp. ground black pepper1/8 tsp. salt, or to taste1/3 c. Thai sweet basil (a.k.a. Asian basil ), tightly packed2 tsp. sesame seeds
Directions: In a large wok, sauté garlic, ginger, & scallions in sesame seed oil for 2 minutes on medium-high heat. Next, add soy sauce, sherry, & (red) rice wine vinegar to deglaze, stirring on occasion. While sauce is reducing, stir in eggplant slices and cook until light golden brown. Stir often, so as not to let the eggplant burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Quickly combine cold water & cornstarch in a small bowl & then pour into the wok. Stir in hoisin sauce and season with red chili pepper flakes (or chili garlic sauce), black pepper, & salt, and cook until sauce mixture is thick & viscous. (If necessary, add more water while eggplant & sauce mixture are cooking). Add in the basil during the last minute of cooking. Remove from heat & sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve on a bed of jasmine or sticky rice.
Yield: Serves 2 as a side dish, or 1 as a main course.
Chef's Notes: It's really important to do the above steps in rapid succession, as the ingredients are cooked on high heat but should never be allowed to burn or stick to the pan. It's important to be vigilant & aware during all phrases of the cooking process, particularly after the eggplant is added. Pay close attention to the texture of the eggplant, which will be ready when it's become soft and carmelized. Also, be sure to keep close tabs on the amount of liquid left in the pan. The sauce shouldn't be watery, but neither should it solidify in the pan. ;) Aim for a happy medium: The goal is to produce a thick & flavorful sauce that flows and yet, still sticks to the eggplant. Ahhhh, sweet & spicy perfection. :)
Variations: If serving as an entrée, simply add tofu &/or chicken. Or, to add more vegetables, try green or red bell peppers &/or mushrooms. Any of these choices would complement this dish quite nicely. Please keep in mind that, since the spicy-sweet garlic sauce in this recipe is rather bold and spicy, any other ingredients you plan to add should be basic and mild. :) The sauce is meant to take center stage, and come to think of it, could also be used in other dishes as well. You could try it over steamed broccoli or green beans, or with sautéed/steamed tofu, chicken, or beef.