Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce is a delicious and savory dish perfect for any occasion. This Sichuan classic features tender eggplants in a rich, tangy garlic sauce, offering a healthy, gluten-free option that’s easy to prepare.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the steps to create this flavorful dish and share expert tips for success. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, you’ll feel confident making this recipe. Get ready to impress your family and friends with this tasty and simple dish!

Photo shows Yuxiang Chinese eggplant stir fried with garlic sauce served on a white plate
Garlicky and buttery eggplants in a sweet and savory sauce

Tips for beginners!

Chinese eggplants are becoming more popular in Western grocery stores and farmers markets. If you’re new to this Asian vegetable, here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Appearance: Chinese eggplants are long and thin with a light purple skin. They have a sweet and delicate flavor.
  • The Skin is Edible: Unlike globe eggplants, the skin of Chinese eggplants is much thinner. After cooking, the skin turns soft and tender. It also contains nutritional value, so there’s no need to peel it.
  • Prepare Chinese eggplant: Slice the eggplants and soak them in a bowl of water with white vinegar for 10-15 minutes. This simple step prevents the eggplants from soaking up too much oil when cooking and helps preserve their beautiful purple color.
  • Coat with Starch: After soaking, pat the eggplants dry and coat them with a thin layer of starch before pan-frying. This gives the eggplants a crispy exterior while keeping the inside soft and buttery.
  • Use a Flavorful Sauce: The spongy texture of eggplants works superbly with a flavorful sauce. We recommend a full-flavored sauce that’s savory, tangy, and a little sweet and sour.


Eggplant with garlic sauce (called yu xiang qiezi in Chinese) is a dish from the Sichuan province. Although “yu xiang” means “fish fragrant eggplant”, it contains no fish at all. Yu xiang sauce tastes savory, sweet, tangy, and a little spicy.

Ingredients needed to make yu xiang eggplant dish

For the eggplants:

  • Chinese eggplants: Long and slender with firm texture and glossy skin; they provide a sweet, delicate flavor.
  • Water and white vinegar: Helps retain the eggplant’s vibrant purple color during cooking.
  • Tapioca starch: Creates a crisp exterior on the eggplants while keeping the inside soft and buttery.

For the ground meat:

  • Ground pork: Adds natural sweetness and umami flavor to the dish; can be substituted with ground chicken, ground beef, or omitted for a meatless version.
  • Avocado oil, salt, and pepper
  • Mirin or Chinese rice wine (optional): Adds depth and slight sweetness; can be substituted with chicken stock if avoiding alcohol.
  • Fresh garlic cloves and spring onions
  • Chinese dry red chili peppers: Adds vibrant color and a hint of spice without overpowering heat.

For the garlic sauce:

  • Chicken stock, rice vinegar, and grated garlic
  • Light soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • Aged balsamic vinegar: Provides a sweet and tangy flavor; can be substituted with Chinese black vinegar.

Substitutions and variations

  • Chinese eggplant substitute: Japanese eggplant or Taiwanese eggplants (​​ping tung long eggplant) are the best substitutes. Italian eggplant or graffiti eggplant have edible skins but the flavor is less sweet.
  • What not to use: Globe eggplants have thick skin that must be peeled and seeds must be removed.
  • Extra savory sauce: add a touch of oyster sauce, Vegetarian oyster sauce, or Taiwanese thick soy sauce (a little sweeter).
  • Spicier: Add a few teaspoons of my garlic chili sauce for a spicy eggplant variation.
  • Vegetarian: Omit the ground meat in the recipe but keep the aromatics — garlic, chili peppers, and spring onions – and add the tofu puffs!

How to cook Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce

Ground pork and eggplant stir fry is not only easy but also a healthy, gluten-free option that’s big on flavor. Follow these simple steps to create a delicious, wholesome meal that everyone will love.

Step-by-step photo shows how to prepare Chinese eggplants
  1. Slice and quarter the eggplants, rinse, and pat dry.
  2. Soak eggplants in a water and vinegar solution for 10 minutes, then pat dry and toss with starch.
  3. Prepare aromatics and sauce: Grate garlic, set aside red chilies, and combine garlic sauce in a small bowl.
step-by-step photo shows how to do with Chinese eggplants
  1. Cook the meat: Add meat to a hot pan with salt, pepper, and mirin. Add garlic and chilies, and fry for an additional minute over medium-high heat.
  2. Fry the eggplant: Push meat aside and add eggplants to the skillet to fry.
  3. Add sauce and simmer: Ensure eggplants are covered in sauce, cover the pan, and let simmer, stirring occasionally until tender.
  4. Serve: Transfer to a large serving bowl, garnish with scallions, and serve warm with steamed rice.

TIP: Soaking the eggplants for 10 minutes will reduce the need to use a larger amount of oil because eggplants like to “drink up” a lot of oil.

Can I use other types of eggplants?

Yes, you can! Japanese eggplants are a great option as they also have thin skin and a mild, sweet flavor.

If you choose Italian or graffiti eggplants, the flavor will be a bit different. These eggplants are less sweet and have more seeds. After slicing, salt them for 15 minutes to draw out the bitterness and pat them dry before cooking. There’s no need to rinse after salting. My Air fryer Chinese eggplant uses the same salting process.

Make ahead, store, and reheat

This garlic eggplant recipe is best enjoyed fresh, but the sauce can be prepared ahead of time.

  • Make-ahead: You can prepare the garlic sauce 1-3 days in advance.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 days.
  • Reheat:
    • Microwave: Heat on medium power for 1.5 to 2 minutes total, stirring halfway through.
    • Stovetop: Heat over medium-low to medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon.

What to serve with yu xiang eggplant

This delicious garlic eggplant dish is usually served with rice (to soak up the sauce) and can be accompanied by any number of sides. Here are some great options to complete your meal:

Rice and Noodles:

Side dishes:

Leafy greens:

Tips for success

  • Choose the right eggplants: Opt for long, slender Chinese eggplants with firm texture and glossy skin for the best flavor and texture.
  • Soak the eggplants: Soaking sliced eggplants in water with vinegar for 10 minutes helps reduce oil absorption and preserves their beautiful purple color.
  • Coat the eggplant with starch: After you pat dry the eggplants, lightly coat them with a thin layer of starch. This will give the surface a more crisp texture.
  • Cooking the Eggplant: Use a non-stick pan and be gentle so that it won’t stick to the pan.
  • Don’t Overcook the Eggplant: Pay attention to your cook time and the stovetop temperature. The eggplants are cooked when you can easily poke them through with a chopstick. Eggplants will turn mushy if you overcook them.
  • Vegetarian: You can make this dish vegetarian-friendly by skipping the ground meat. Do keep the garlic, chili peppers, and scallions in the stir fry.


Why do you soak the eggplant before cooking?

Soaking eggplant for 10 minutes before cooking helps to reduce oil absorption. This is because the air bubbles inside the eggplants like to soak up oil. Western eggplants also have a more bitter flavor than Chinese eggplants so soaking them before cooking might help remove the bitter flavor. Make sure you pat dry the eggplants with a clean paper towel before cooking.

Do you eat the skin of Chinese eggplant?

Yes, the skin of Chinese eggplant is tender and entirely edible. Unlike the thicker skin of some Western eggplants, Chinese eggplant’s skin cooks down to a soft texture, so there’s no need to peel it. It also adds color and additional nutrients to the dish. The skin is usually included in traditional Chinese eggplant dishes.

What is the difference between Chinese eggplant and Japanese eggplant?

Chinese eggplants have a long and thin shape. The skin color is pale purple color and with a sweet, delicate flavor. Japanese eggplants are similar in shape but a little bit shorter and the skin color is darker. They also have a slightly more robust flavor and thicker skin. Both varieties are less bitter and have fewer seeds than typical Western eggplants. They are great substitutes for one another.

Can I substitute Western eggplants for this dish?

Yes, you can substitute Western eggplants. However, using Italian, graffiti, or globe eggplants will result in a slightly different flavor, as these eggplants are less sweet and contain more seeds. I recommend salting them to eliminate the bitterness as well as peeling off the skin and removing the seeds before cooking.

More Chinese eggplant recipes

Looking for more delicious ways to enjoy Chinese eggplant? Check out these related dishes that are sure to tantalize your taste buds and keep you coming back for more.

  • Chinese Steamed Eggplant Salad: A refreshing summertime dish with Sichuan flavors, perfect for a light and flavorful meal.
  • Thai Basil Eggplant: This dish combines tender eggplants with aromatic Thai basil and a savory sauce, making it a delightful addition to any meal.
  • Roasted Chinese Eggplant: A great sheet pan meal featuring nutty tahini sauce, perfect for an easy and flavorful dinner.
  • Chinese Eggplant Stir Fry with Tofu: A hearty and satisfying dish where tender eggplants meet protein-packed tofu in a delicious stir fry.
A side close shot shows Chinese eggplants stir fried in garlic sauce and served on a white plate
Recipe photo shows how to make Yu shiang eggplant with garlic sauce
5 from 39 votes

Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: ChihYu Smith
Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce (Yu Xiang eggplant) is a garlicky and savory stir fry dish. Chinese eggplants are half-braised and half-stirfried until buttery delicious. This recipe is tailed for home cooks to make easily!
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For the eggplants:

  • 1 lb Chinese eggplants, 2 long eggplants
  • 3 cups water, optional
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar, optional
  • 2-2.5 tbsp tapioca starch, optional

For the ground meat:

  • 3 tbsp avocado oil, divided
  • 0.5 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp mirin, or Chinese rice wine, optional
  • 0.8 oz garlic cloves, finely minced, 5 large
  • 5 whole Chinese dry red chili peppers
  • 2 bulb spring onions, diced

For the garlic sauce:


Prepare Chinese eggplants:

  • Slice off the tip ends of the eggplants. Rinse and pat dry. Slice the eggplant crosswise into 2.5-inch sections then quarter each section lengthwise.
  • Soaking: In a large bowl, add the eggplants and fill the bowl with tap water. Place a plate up-side-down on top of the eggplants to help them submerge under the water. Soak for 10 minutes. After soaking, pat them dry and toss them with starch.

Aromatics and Garlic sauce:

  • In the meantime, prepare the garlic, set aside red chilies, and combine the garlic sauce in a measuring cup.

Cook the ground meat:

  • In a well-heated large non-stick saute pan, add 1 tbsp oil, fry the meat over medium-high heat until it’s cooked through and break up to fine pieces, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and mirin, and add-in the garlic and dry chilies. Fry the ground meat for 1 more minute.

Fry the eggplant:

  • Push the meat to the side of the pan, add the eggplants and the remaining 2 tbsp oil, and season with another pinch of salt. Fry the eggplants over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.

Add the garlic sauce:

  • Pour in the garlic sauce. Gently push the eggplants down to touch the liquid. Cover with a lid. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the eggplants are soft and cooked through, stirring every 2 minutes. Turn off the meat.


  • Transfer them to a large serving bowl and garnish with scallions. Serve warm with a bowl of steamed rice.


  • Soaking the eggplants will reduce the need to use a larger amount of oil because eggplants like to drink up a lot of oil.
  • The mirin and Chinese dry red chili peppers are optional. The chilies are used for colors as they are used whole and not cut up. They also add a hint of spicy flavor. You can substitute with ⅛ tsp of Korean red pepper flakes – gochugaru – for a similar flavor.
  • You also use ground chicken, turkey, or beef. The flavor will be slightly different but still delicious.
  • If you choose Italian or graffiti, the flavor will be a bit different. These eggplants are less sweet and have more seeds. After slicing, salt them for 15 minutes to draw out the bitterness and pat them dry before cooking. There’s no need to rinse after salting. 


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 224kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 393mg, Potassium: 349mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 24IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 31mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese, Taiwanese
Keyword: Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, Yu Xiang eggplant
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