Skip to content

Yu Xiang (Fish-fragrant) Eggplant and Zucchini

Yu xiang eggplant 01

Last year, I posted a dish I called Fish-fragrant Pork Belly with Pineapple, and I briefly mentioned the origin of the name. There is a group of dishes in Chinese cuisine (chiefly that of Sichuan and, to a lesser extent, Hunan), which are referred to using the Chinese characters ‘魚香’ (pronounced ‘yu xiang’). The first means ‘fish’ while the second can be translated as ‘fragrance’ or ‘aroma’. A ‘fish fragrant’ dish is characterized by a technique wherein garlic, ginger and scallion are first sautéed in oil and then the main ingredients are added along with a sauce composed of Chili-bean paste enlivened with sugar and vinegar.

The name, as we shall see below, actually has little to do with fish. Occasionally, once comes across a very unfortunate Chinese to English translation in which the characters are rendered as ‘fish-odor’ or ‘fish-smelling’ but very often, in the west, a dish will be described as being served in ‘garlic sauce’ or ‘spicy garlic sauce’. If you see these on a menu, look for the ‘Yu Xiang’ characters and you will know that you are dealing with a ‘fish fragrant’ dish. Two of the most common main ingredients are shredded pork and eggplant but it is also possible to come across a fish-fragrant fish dish as well. For today, I am doing an eggplant version but, since I only had a very small eggplant to work with, I am supplementing it with zucchini, which should do very nicely too… 

Many sources are quick to note that ‘fish-fragrant’ dishes to not contain (or smell like) fish, but they then go on to assert confidently (and, in my opinion) incorrectly that the name arises because the cookery technique was originally used for fish dishes. One writer has proposed that the characters in the Chinese name are actually a corruption of an earlier name with a similar pronunciation in which the ‘Yu’ refers to a river in Sichuan, and the ‘Xiang’ to a river in Human, thus memorializing the origin of the dish. It is a clever suggestion but not one that I believe.

Yu xiang eggplant 02

Fuchsia Dunlop, author of the excellent ‘Land of Plenty’, says that, at one time, the dish was spiced up with pickled chilies, in which a carp was added for additional flavor ( hence ‘fish-fragrance’), and this seems the most likely origin of the name  to me. Nowadays, the fermented chili is replaced with the spicy bean paste known as ‘Dou Ban Jiang’ (seen pictured above). This has the heat of chili, while the fermented bean paste adds the same umami depth as would have been by the fermented carp.

The Ingredients

  • 1 small Eggplant;
  • 1 Zucchini;
  • 2 – 3 Garlic cloves, finely  chopped;
  • 3 slices fresh Ginger, minced;
  • 1 Scallion, thinly sliced;
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar;
  • 1 tbsp. Vinegar;
  • 1 tbsp. Sichuan Chili Bean Paste (or more to taste);
  • ¼ cup water.

The Method

Yu xiang eggplant 03

First, slice the eggplant and zucchini into fairly thick batons and the mix the sugar, vinegar and bean paste together along with the water.

Yu xiang eggplant 04

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in your wok over moderately high heat and then add quickly sauté the zucchini until the light parts are just beginning to turn golden brown. Remove to a bowl and then repeat with the eggplant. Probably, you will need to add extra oil as both vegetables will absorb a fair bit.

Yu xiang eggplant 05

Now reheat your oil, replenishing it to make a total quantity of two tablespoons, and then sauté the garlic, scallion and ginger, stirring until their aroma is released.

Yu xiang eggplant 06

Add the sauce mixture, allow it to reduce and thicken slightly, and then add the eggplant and zucchini. Stir and toss quickly until everything has heated through and the reduced sauce coats the ingredients. If the sauce is a little too dry you may add a little water.  As soon as everything is nice and hot, plate and serve immediately.

The Verdict

Yu xiang eggplant 07

I served the vegetable dish with garlic ribs and rice stir-fried with radish greens. The ribs were not my best but the Yu Xiang eggplant and zucchini turned out very nicely indeed. Fish fragrant dishes are an amalgam of all the major tastes except bitter and, except for this being just a tad more salty than some might like, the balance was pretty good…

 

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Meet & Eats

The food that I've had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

Uncle Grumpy's Playroom

Current events, humor, science, religion, satire

Food Travel Lover

走过的地方 尝过的美食 留下的回忆

The Odd Pantry

Essays on food

Reputable Sources

Organizing ferments since 2013

that Other Cooking Blog

. food . photo . sous vide .

REMCooks

My Virtual Cookbook to Share My Love and Joy of Food and Cooking One Recipe at a Time

lola rugula

my journey of cooking, gardening, preserving and more

Yummy Lummy

I cook, photograph and eat food with the occasional restaurant review!

Eye Of the Beholder

A pair of eternally curious eyes and a camera...Life is beautiful.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living

Clayton's Kitchen

Big flavors and fun cooking from a cubbyhole kitchen

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design

DENTIST CHEF

Dentist chef, just a dentistry student who practice the dentist's cooking recipes in a dentist's kitchen

Mad Dog TV Dinners

Guess what's coming to dinner?

Chefsopinion

Real Food & Real Opinions

Bento Days

Making bentos for kids

Garden to Wok

Fresh and tasty!

Bam's Kitchen

Healthy World Cuisine

Trang Quynh

everyone is special in their own way :)

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season

HolyPrettyApple

If people say that life is too short to drink bad wine, it means also that life is too short to eat crappy food!

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

The Unorthodox Epicure

Confessions of an Aspiring Food Snob

The 好吃 Challenge

1 girl, 273 days, 100 recipes

Rabbitcancook

a recipe sharing and bento blog

benleeirene

Just another WordPress.com site

The Food Nazi

Never try to eat more than you can lift

Expat Chef in Barcelona

From my kitchen to yours

Keeping Up With the Holsbys

a journey into my head and my pantry

Nurul's Culinary Adventures

I Love Food, the Universe and Everything!!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

home-cooking recipes, restaurant reviews, International cuisine ,

Naked Vegan Cooking

Body-positive Vegan Goodness

Bites of Food History

Sharing my Experimental Archaeology of Food

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

Cooking, food, wine

FOODTRAIL

A Journey About Food, Recipes And Destinations

bcfoodieblogger

Fresh, exciting and adventurous food journey

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

%d bloggers like this: