Garlic and Chili Chinese Eggplant {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Garlic and Chili Chinese Eggplant {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Eggplant with Chili and Garlic

After almost one month in the country China still remains a mystery to me.

  • Why does everyone (men and women alike) spit on the street all the time?
  • Why do the babies have slits in their pants to reveal their private parts?
  • Why do parents crouch with their babies on their lap to *no joke* have the babies poop on the sidewalk?
  • Why do waiters stand over you the minute you get the menu until you’ve made your decision?
  • Why do people continue to jabber on to you in Chinese even when it’s clear you don’t speak a word of it?
  • Why are the squat toilets so filthy?
  • Why isn’t there ever any soap or toilet paper in the bathrooms?
  • Why do people scream when talking on their cell phone in public transportation?
  • Why is everyone pushing and shoving all the time?
  • Why are people trying to rip you off?
  • Why do the train conductors take your tickets and give you what resembles a hotel room card until you reach your destination?

So many questions. Mostly left to be unanswered. This is the problem with traveling and not speaking the language – you can’t properly react in the appropriate situation since no one will understand you anyway.

Take last night’s dinner for example. We selected what looked like a reputable restaurant – were led to our table and had the waitress stand over us as we made our dining selections. Thankfully we were handed a picture menu – though even with these it’s hard to tell what kind of meat you could end up with. In a Western country you might be OK just picking something and hoping for the best but with all the obscure meats and animal parts they consume here in China I don’t want to end up with a bunch of pigs ears for dinner accidentally. This waitress spoke enough english to indicate where the eggs and beef were on the menu – well looks like that would be our selection. Oh and doufu – the one word we can remember in Chinese since it’s so similar to it’s English equivalent – tofu.

After our decent yet somewhat overpriced meal of rice, stir fried beef with scallions, scrambled eggs with greens, and lightly pan fried tofu with a sour sweet sauce we were ready to pay the bill and head back to our $14 a night hostel.

If only we had gotten up a minute earlier. Before we had a chance to pay an older lady (the restaurant fat cat as we shall call her) approached us and starting talking with us in English, finishing up her tirade with an offer to sing for us.

Well that’s strange, but ok.

Well the fat cat wasn’t going to sing herself – she brought out a young girl all dressed up in what I imagine to be traditional old school Chinese clothing and had her sing us a song. After a mildly awkward two minutes with a light clap we were ready to go. Not so fast. The fat cat instantly pounced on us demanding that we pay 10 yuan for the “performance.”

Lost in the situation and already feeling super uncomfortable D reluctantly forked over the $1.50. Is this the end of the world? No, but it certainly is completely obnoxious if you ask me. This is the kind of stuff that really makes my blood boil. When we get charged more for street food, I don’t mind, but when this restaurant fat cat throws this on us it truly is infuriating.

Lesson learned. No more songs will be sung to us in China and I’ll make sure of it.

Eggplant at Cloud 9 for Lunch

The tirade aside, what I really want to share today is this garlic and chili chinese eggplant recipe, a second installment from the Yangshuo Cooking School set. This dish can be frequently found on Chinese menus and when we spot it on the picture menu we always get it. Lightly stir fried yet full of subtle garlic and chili flavors this makes for a perfect side dish.

Make sure to look for the long Chinese of Japanese eggplant in stores, it really differs from the traditional fatter and wider eggplant variety.

As I mentioned in my last Chinese cooking post make sure to heat the wok over high heat until smoking, then reduce the heat to low and add the oil. Hot wok, cold oil – lesson #1 in Chinese cooking.

Lesson # 2 always have water handy. The Chinese (almost) always add water to the wok when stir frying veggies. Just make sure to wait for the water to bubble before stirring everything together otherwise the veggies will taste watery.

Got to love the cooking secrets you pick up from taking a local cooking class!

Next time you’re looking for a quick veggie side dish give this garlic and chili eggplant a try. You won’t be disappointed!


Kitchen Utensils Used in this recipe:

T-fal A8058962 Specialty Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator 14-Inch Jumbo Wok Cookware, Black – if you don’t already have a wok I highly recommend getting one. You can use it for so much more than stir fries and it really is perfect cooking pan.
Zyliss Susi 3 Garlic Press – I hate mincing garlic by knife and would be lost without a garlic press. It can be so hard to find a good one though. I’ve gone through so many that don’t quite have the right ridges to really crush that garlic, but this one, this one is perfect.

If you are still looking for more recipes with Chinese eggplant head over to check out my fish flavored eggplant.

Yields 1

Garlic and Chili Chinese Eggplant

A simple yet authentic Chinese side dish recipe.

10 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

25 minTotal Time

Save Recipe


  • 8 ounces Chinese or Japanese eggplant (1/2-1 eggplant)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce (use soy sauce or gluten free tamari for gluten free or vegan version)
  • 3-4 tablespoons water


  1. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Take each half and cut it into quarters vertically down the middle. Then cut each quarter into thirds. You should end up with 24 long pieces of eggplant.
  2. Heat wok over high heat until smoking. Reduce heat to low and add oil. Add eggplant and cook over medium heat until browned and soft. Move eggplant to the side of the wok.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add garlic, ginger and chili paste. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  4. Mix garlic and ginger with the eggplant and add water, turn the heat to high and add oyster sauce. Wait until the water is bubbling and then start mixing the vegetables. Cook 2-3 minutes or until water is almost gone.
  5. Sprinkle with green onions and serve.
Cuisine: Chinese | Recipe Type: Side Dish

Recipe adapted from Yangshuo cooking school 

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  1. says

    You paint a pretty picture of traveling in China!
    This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes, mmm mmm.

    • Vicky says

      Mine too! I’ve really grown to love the skinny Japanese/Chinese eggplant! I never cooked with it back home but will definitely have to start when we eventually get back from our travels! China has been quite the experience – somestimese great, somestimes not so much but I guess that’s just how it goes!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! Hope you enjoy it! It’s such a simple side dish but really is so good! Make sure to look for the long and thin Japanese or Chinese style eggplant variety!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! China has been quite the experience so far. It definitely isn’t our favorite country but once we got out of the big cities in the north and startede exploring more nature in the south we’ve been enjoying it more!

  2. Lu says

    I grew up in Shanghai, China. I would have to say I was quite astonished by the list of questions you posted in the beginning of this article. I am sure you wrote down what you have seen and experienced but I would also like to tell you what you saw do not represent China. I would love to answer all of your questions if you’d like.
    However, it might be helpful for you to learn some Chinese in the mean time. Most of my American friends expect every foreigner who comes to the States with fluent English. Why can’t Chinese people expect the same language skills from Americans?
    I am glad you are enjoying Chinese food but please be a little more patient with the country you are visiting.

    • Vicky says

      I’m sorry if these questions offended you but these are simply some of my observations after spending over a month here and traveling around the country. As of now we have traveled through Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tangkou (Huangshan), Guilin, Yangshuo, Zhangjiajie, and are currently in Chengdu, and most of these questions apply to all of cities except for Shanghai (a city which I feel is unlike any of the other cities we’ve visited in China). In terms of languages I by no means expect foreign visitors to the US to speak fluent English, nor do I expect Chinese people to speak it, either. It is my understanding though that in China students spend years learning English and I would just generally expect that after taking the time to learn a language there would be basic understanding of it. I speak Russian, English and moderate Spanish and while we have taken some time to learn some phrases in Chinese with our 2 year travel plan we obviously cannot pick up an entire language in a limited amount of time for every country we visit.

  3. Lu says

    No offense taken! I really enjoy reading your food blogs and I have to say your Chinese cooking recipe works better than mine. lol
    China is a very diverse cultured country and people often experience culture shocks while traveling across the nation. The cities you have traveled through all have their own different dialects. I guess it is not fair to ask you to learn all of those dialects. The waitress and waiters who work in most of those restaurants are usually from poor, rural areas. They don’t have much of resources so many of them have to go to big cities to earn a living from a very young age (12-18 is an average age for them). They barely went to school so not even mention English education. However, the waiters stand right next to you is because it is the polite thing to do in Chinese culture.
    Last but least, People will try to rip you off just because you are a visitor. The rule of the thumb is to knock off at least half of the price they ask for.

    • Vicky says

      Yes I definitely think we have experienced a bit of a culture shock here in China. We had never been to Asia before we started this trip and though we went to Japan first and then South Korea to ease our way into Asia, we were still not quite prepared for China! Thanks for providing the info about the wait staff in restaurants. It’s so strange to think that it’s more polite to stand by the table when ordering because to me it just seems intimidating and feels like they are trying to rush you along. Being ripped off has definitely been incredibly frustrating. When we were in Yangshuo a street vendor tried to charge us 50cents for 1 clementine – which even we know is absurd since we’ve bought 10 before for less than a dollar! We always try to avoid cabs too because it’s frustrating trying to negotiate the price and at times just exhausting. We’ve been charged 20 yuan for a cab ride before that I am sure really should have only cost 5 or at the most 10. Having to haggle all the time has been one of my least favorite parts about traveling. I just want to purchase things for the price marked – and that’s why buying things at stores or supermarkets has always been pain free. Sometimes even when we buy street food we can never tell if the vendor is smiling at us because they’re happy to see foreigners buying from them or if they know they can get us to pay more. I guess we’ll never know! Thanks for taking the time to comment and following along!

  4. says

    Worked in China for 2 years and loved Fong Wei Chee Zee (I know I probably spelled it wrong). Your recipe is great however, I do recommend that you take China for what it is. Most of the people are lovely, the food is great, its got allot of culture and history and its affordable. Don’t dwell on the negatives……

  5. says

    Love it! I JUST got back to Beijing from Yangshuo today and immediately looked up recipes for food there. So good. Can’t wait to try this eggplant!

    • Vicky says

      It’s a great recipe! I loved taking cooking classes in China and learning more about the food, cooking styles and technique there. So fascinating!

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