Mince is cheap, especially pork mince. However, it’s still meat and is more pricey than pulses or in-season vegetables.
A clever cook knows how to bulk out their mince with other ingredients. The meat in a spaghetti bolognese, for instance, can be stretched out with vegetables like onions, tomatoes and carrots.
Sichuan cuisine takes it one step further, turning meat into a side act in favourites like mapo tofu, green beans with pork mince, and ‘fish-fragrant’ eggplant. Making green beans or eggplant the main attraction makes sense, especially when they can cost as little as $2 per kilo.
Unfortunately, I don’t hail from Sichuan and I can’t handle chillies. So instead of Sichuan-style vegetables with pork mince, I’m going to recreate my mother’s mild-mannered eggplant and pork mince stew:
Mother’s eggplant and pork mince stew
1 medium eggplant, diced*
500g pork mince
1 onion, diced
2-3 cups of stock**
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Fish sauce to taste
Spring onions, sliced, to garnish
- In a wok over high heat, fry onion in oil until softened.
- Add minced pork and cook until browned. Season with sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Add diced eggplant and stock to the wok. Once boiling, turn heat to low and cover with lid. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove lid and reduce liquid for a further 10 minutes or until eggplant is tender.
- Add fish sauce to taste.
- Serve with rice and garnish with spring onions.
*Selecting eggplants – The best time to buy eggplants is in summer when tomatoes are also in season. Eggplants should be firm with a smooth and shiny skin. The stem should be green and thick. Eggplants that have a thin and withered stem are usually more mature and may need salting. Once purchased, use your eggplant as soon as possible. Otherwise, wrap it in paper and store it inside a plastic bag in the fridge.
**I used some pork stock saved from a previous dish, but chicken stock should be fine. Use enough stock to cover the ingredients.