To cook fried eggplants with gochujang (Korean chili paste), fry the eggplants, add the chili paste with seasonings and spices, and toss.
Sounds easy, right? It is. And the whole process takes about ten minutes. For non-meat eaters, just pair the dish with perfectly cooked fluffy rice and you have a full meal. For meat lovers, you can have the eggplants on the side. This vegetable dish is absolutely delicious and I wish everyone who reads the recipe gets a chance to try it.
But what about readers who don’t have access to gochujang? While Korean and other Asian ingredients are now more widely available outside Asia, I understand that the rising popularity of Korean cuisine does not necessarily mean Korean ingredients are available in just about every part of the globe.
The obvious question, of course, is whether some other chili sauce or paste can be substituted for gochujang. Sriracha, the Thai chili paste, for instance. Or Tabasco. Or Mexican chili paste made with dried chilies. Will substitution work? Yes, but…
Ahhh, the big BUT. To understand the effect of substitution, you need to understand that no chili paste is made with nothing but chilies. Seasonings and other spices are added. Some, like gochujang, undergo fermentation; others don’t. Understand too that Korean chili paste is made with chilies that grow in Korea while Mexican chili paste is made with chilies that grow in Mexico, and all these chilies have varying degrees of heat.
In other words, chili paste or sauce from one country will not taste the same as chili paste or sauce from another country. Some will have a hint of sweetness, some will have a stronger aroma, some will be mildly hot while others will set your tongue on fire.
I’m not discouraging you from making substitutions. Why should I when you might end up with a better-tasting spicy eggplant dish. Just be aware that every substitution will mean variations in flavor, color, aroma or texture, or all of them.
That said, here’s the recipe by my daughter, Alex.
Fried Eggplants with Gochujang (Korean Chili Paste)
- 4 Asian eggplants
- 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons gochujang
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds to garnish
- 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallions to garnish
- Cut off the tops of the eggplants and discard. Cut each eggplant vertically into halves then cut each halve into half-inch slices.
- Heat the sesame seed oil in a non-stick frying pan.
- Spread the eggplant slices in the hot oil so that they are in a single layer. If your frying pan is small to accommodate all of them, do the frying in batches. Cook over high heat for a minute then flip them over.
- Turn down the heat to medium. Add the soy sauce, gochujang, shallots and garlic. Toss well. Cook until the mixture is almost dry and the eggplants are cooked through.
- Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions over the eggplants before serving.