I am writing this post from the comfort of my own room…while wearing mittens, a hat, and two pairs of pants. In our apartment complex, the heat is centrally controlled for all the tenants and does not get turned on until November 15th (my roommates and I keep a calendar where we cross out days until the heat turns on). Despite the cold weather, fall in Beijing has been a great time and I think I can say I'm finally settling in to life in Beijing.
Last week, my boyfriend and a few of our friends took a brief vacation to Hong Kong and Macau to enjoy some warmer weather and explore a different part of China. We took a train to Shi Jia Zhuang, the capital of Hebei Province, and then flew from Shi Jia Zhuang into Hong Kong. I think the trip made all of us nostalgic for home, as Hong Kong has a much more Western/cosmopolitan feel than Beijing.
After exploring a few local attractions – Victoria's Peak, Shek-O Beach, and Causeway Bay, we took a ferry over to Macau. Although we weren't allowed to go into the casinos (you have to be 21), I got to watch my friend bungee jump off one of the tallest buildings in Macau, and we traveled to Cotai island to relax on the beach and try some authentic Portuguese cuisine. I feel so lucky to have gotten to take a brief vacation to travel and visit someplace warm!
Traveling aside, I think I have finally managed to establish a routine. My apartment is roughly 3 or 4 miles from campus, so every morning I have class I usually eat a quick breakfast at home then bike (through perilous Beijing traffic) to class. For lunch and dinner there are several Western and Chinese restaurants in the area surrounding my apartment, but my roommates and I have really enjoyed cooking for ourselves, as it is pretty quick and inexpensive to make stir-frys and noodle dishes. There is even an outdoor market directly across the street from our apartment where we can purchase everything from freshly-pressed tofu to veggies and rice.
Lately, I've developed a taste for Chinese eggplant in fragrant fish sauce, a popular Chinese dish that gets its name because they use the same sauce to cook the eggplant in that is used for marinating and frying fish. The eggplant is a lot meatier and less "stringy" than the Italian eggplant found in the U.S. and it makes a great addition to both meat and vegetarian dishes. I also love making eggplant in teriyaki sauce, and while I'm still working on perfecting this recipe, I thought I would share it for anyone who wants to try making their own eggplant stirfry!
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 1.5 Cups Thai Long-Grain Rice (subsitute brown rice for a high fiber, healthy option)
- 2 Medium Chinese Eggplants
- 1/2 Cup flour
- 1/2 Cup canola oil
- 1 tsbp Sesame oil
- 6 tsbp dark soy sauce
- 4 tsbp sugar
- 3 tsp white vinegar
- 4 tbsp oyster sauce
- 4 tbsp water (more or less)
- Additional soy sauce to taste
1. Heat canola oil in wok or deep frying pan on medium high heat (I don't have a thermometer so I usually have to guess, but the eggplant should sizzle when you drop it into the oil!). Dice eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes and coat in flour.
2. Fry eggplant until golden brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes. Since you will probably have to fry in two or three batches, keep a plate with a paper towel on hand to place fried eggplant on.
3. In a shallow frying pan, heat sesame oil on medium, then add the fried eggplant. Add soy sauce, sugar, and white vinegar to pan. Stir until sugar is dissolved, adding water as the sauce begins to thicken. Cook for about 4-5 minutes- not too long, just enough for the ingredients to combine into a nice sauce. This recipe is still in the experimental stage, so adjust ingredients for the teriyaki as necessary to taste- if you add them slowly and taste as you go it will turn out just fine. If you're feeling adventurous, you could even try adding a little Sichuan pepper oil for some added spice.
4. Serve eggplant over rice.
Easy rule of thumb for cooking rice if you don't have a rice cooker – add about 2 parts water for every 1 part rice (if you're following this recipe, you'll want to add about 3 cups of water). Cook in a pot on high until done, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking. Also, don't forget to rinse the rice in clean water first, otherwise you'll end up with a sticky film in your pot that can be hard to clean!