Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Thrifty Asian

Mother’s eggplant and pork mince stew

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

Serves 4

1 medium eggplant, diced*
500g pork mince
1 onion, diced
2-3 cups of stock**
vegetable oil
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.

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