Rip and steam: Eggplant made right

Society & Culture

No knives necessary today. If possible, try buying the cucumber-long purple Asian eggplant for this recipe, because they’re softer and more easily torn, by hand. The result is more natural, artful, and tasty.

The best way to cook eggplant is to steam them. These veggies can quickly absorb hot oil when fried because of the tiny air pockets hidden in their soft and spongy flesh. Steaming perfectly solves this problem. Instead of oil, this recipe fills those little pockets with a flavorful, healthy sauce.

Chinese steamed eggplant with garlic sauce (蒜蓉蒸茄子 suàn róng zhēng qiézi) is my favorite way to cook eggplant. The creamy, tender eggplant is smothered in a garlicky, sour, sweet, and spicy juice, which can be enjoyed both hot and cold. The sauce is also versatile, and pairs well with almost all types of vegetables (for example, shiitake mushrooms).

If available, try buying cucumber-long purple Asian eggplants because they’re softer and more easily torn, by hand. Yes, do not use knives. The result is more natural, artful, and tasty. The eggplant will absorb the sauce more evenly.

The steaming can take from 10 to 15 minutes depending on how soft you like it. I usually cook for 15 minutes because I like super tender eggplants. You can check by poking through the veggie.


Serves 2


20 minutes


  • 3 Asian eggplants
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 green chili, chopped
  • 1/2 red chili, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • A drizzle of sesame oil

chinese steamed eggplants 2


1. Wash and discard the stems of the eggplants. Leave the skin on. Hand-tear to 1-2 inch shreds. Pile on a plate that fits into the steamer.

2. Place the plate onto the steamer rack, covered. Bring the steamer to a boil and steam for 12 minutes over medium heat. Let it sit covered for another 3 minutes.

chinese steamed eggplants 3

3. While cooking the eggplant, mix minced garlic, chopped green chili, red chili, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 6 teaspoons of sugar, 5 tablespoons of vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of light soy sauce, and a drizzle of sesame oil in a bowl. Stir well.

chinese steamed eggplants 4

4. When the eggplant is cooked, press and drain the liquid from the eggplant. Pour the sauce over and serve.

chinese steamed eggplants 5

SupChina Eats is a weekly column.