Eggplant can be a polarizing vegetable. There are those who don’t care for it, but I’m in the other camp. I love eggplant in any form, whether roasted, grilled, or even purĂŠed into baba ganoush. But my absolute favorite? When eggplant is stir-fried with lots of garlic and coated with a glossy, savory sauce that I can spoon over a big bowl of steamed rice. I’m not vegan, but this recipe can lean that way if you can get your hands on vegetarian oyster sauce.
There are a number of ways to make crispy tofu, but the method I turn to uses a nonstick pan, which ensures that the tofu browns nicely, but doesn’t stick to the pan. Once the tofu browns, the pan is free to stir-fry the eggplant with garlic until it’s nicely seared on the outside, but creamy on the inside. I love using Japanese or Chinese eggplants here since they’re smaller and less bitter than their larger Italian counterparts.
The sauce that holds everything together is a mixture of oyster sauce (vegetarian if you want to keep the dish vegan), soy sauce (or tamari), cornstarch, rice vinegar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
The finishing touch is a big handful of basil leaves. Sweet and slightly spicy Thai basil is the perfect choice here, although regular Italian basil will work beautifully too. I like this stir-fry heaped over steamed white or brown rice, but rice noodles would also work great.
Vegan Stir-Fried Garlic Tofu and Eggplant
For the sauce:
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons regular or vegetarian oyster sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the stir-fry:
1 (14- to-16-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound eggplant, preferably Asian, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves
Steamed rice, for serving
For the sauce: Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, making sure the cornstarch is dissolved.
For the stir-fry: Line a large plate with two layers of paper towels. Place the tofu in a single layer on the paper towels to drain.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tofu, spread into a single layer, and season generously with salt. Cook, flipping rarely, until golden-brown on at least 2 sides (be careful, it will splatter), about 10 minutes total. Remove to a clean plate.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the eggplant. Season with salt and stir-fry until charred in spots, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the reserved tofu and stir to combine. Whisk the reserved sauce to recombine and dissolve the cornstarch, and add it to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry until the sauce has thickened and coats the tofu and eggplant, about 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat, add the basil leaves, and toss to combine. Serve immediately with steamed rice.
- Gluten-free: To make this dish gluten-free, look for oyster sauce labeled gluten-free and use tamari rather than soy sauce.
- Vegetarian oyster sauce: Regular oyster sauce is usually made from oysters, but vegetarian oyster sauce, which is made from mushrooms, is a vegetarian and vegan alternative.