Szechuan Pork is a bold combination of sweet, spicy, and savory. This Asian pork and eggplant stir fry is crunchy and completely coated with a hot Szechuan sauce, along with a couple of veggies for added texture and flavor. And the whole thing takes just 20 minutes!
It’s no secret that I love stir fry recipes. They’re simple, fast, and come with little mess to clean up afterward. And one of my absolute favorites to make is this Szechuan pork and eggplant stir fry. It’s incredible that that much flavor can fit into one pan!
Szechuan pork is both spicy and sweet, with a fantastic crunch and savory flavor that comes from the crust. It’s stir fried with Szechuan eggplant to tone down some of that heat with a tender, mild sweetness.
This eggplant stir fry lasts for 3-4 days in the fridge, so it’s great for meal prep as well.
Seeking some more Asian eggplant recipes? Try my Eggplant Moussaka or Spiced Eggplant Stew! You can also use your leftover sauces and seasonings to make some sweet and juicy Beef with Black Bean Sauce, Hunan Chicken, or Sticky Asian Short Ribs.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Pork - I use a 1 pound pork tenderloin when I make this recipe. You could, however, use boneless chops instead.
- Cornstarch - To make the delicious, crunchy coating for the tenderloin. It also thickens the sauce.
- Chinese Eggplant - A long, thin, lavender-colored vegetable. Very mild and a bit sweet, the Szechuan eggplant tones down some of the intense heat of the dish.
- Bamboo Shoots - Crunchy and sweet, this earthy veggie has a unique flavor that you might compare to corn. Water chestnuts could make a good substitute.
- Sambal Oelek - This is spicy, acidic Indonesian chili paste that has a ton of flavor. You could use your favorite chili paste in its stead, but I highly recommend giving this one a try!
- Black Bean Sauce - A common ingredient in Chinese cuisine. It is savory and rich, though still mild in flavor.
- Ginger Paste - This paste is best fresh and made at home. Minced ginger could be used as a substitute, but it will not have the same texture.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - To add a sharp, acidic note to the sauce. It’s one of the key flavors that makes it stand out! Rice wine vinegar is your best alternative.
- Sesame Oil - A strong and aromatic oil. A little goes a long way!
HOW TO MAKE SZECHUAN PORK
- Marinate the Pork. Slice the meat into strips and marinate with 2 tablespoons each of cornstarch and soy sauce for at least 15 minutes.
- Prep the Eggplant. Cut off the stems and quarter each one lengthwise. Then, slice them down further into 2 inch pieces. Watch the video in this post for help! Season with salt and let sit while the excess water drains.
- Make the Sauce. Mix the leftover cornstarch, chili paste, black bean sauce, ginger, soy sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar, and sesame oil in a small bowl until the honey is completely dissolved.
- Fry the Pork. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Stir fry the minced garlic and gradually add the pork in batches, quickly frying until browned.
- Fry the Eggplant. Once the strips are crispy at the edges, pat the eggplant to remove as much water as possible and add it to the wok. Sear in the wok for a couple of minutes.
- Stir in the Sauce. Sprinkle in the green onions and bamboo shoots. Pour in the sauce and fry everything together while it thickens.
- Serve and Enjoy! Serve your Szechuan pork and eggplant stir fry over steamed rice or your favorite noodles.
Recipe Notes and FAQ
First, trim the end off of each end. Next, cut each eggplant lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into 2-inch long pieces.
Toss lightly in a bowl with kosher salt. The salt will extract some of the water content from the eggplant so it doesn't become mushy when it's cooked.
For this spicy stir fry recipe, no peeling is necessary! The skin is not only edible, but it's also a good source of nutrients.
The reason many pork dishes end up dry is because the meat is overcooked. Keep in mind that stir frying is a quick cooking method. The immense heat of a wok can fully cook proteins like beef and pork in just 3-4 minutes.
This sticky, sweet, and spicy sauce is a combination of a couple common Chinese spices and seasonings, honey for sweetness, vinegar for added acidity, and cornstarch for thickness. It is certainly very spicy and not for the faint of heart, but you can use less chili paste if you prefer!
So what does Szechuan pork taste like? It’s hot, sweet, and savory, with a remarkable crunch! Szechuan eggplant is more mild, and the two together create a perfect harmony of flavor and texture.
The “regular” veggie that we usually see in an American supermarket is a deep purple and a bit fat, full of bitter seeds and with a meaty texture.
Chinese eggplants, alternatively, are lighter in color, long and skinny, and have only a few seeds. This makes them less bitter, more sweet, and more tender.
Generally, the two are able to be swapped in Asian eggplant recipes, but you can absolutely tell the difference between the two.
Szechuan pork is crunchy and crispy, but it is not breaded! That addicting texture comes from a mix of cornstarch and soy sauce, fried until it’s just crispy and not a moment longer, keeping the meat tender and juicy.
Szechuan Pork and Eggplant Stir Fry
- 1 lb pork tenderloin (See Note 1)
- 3 tablespoon cornstarch divided
- 4 tablespoon soy sauce divided
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 Chinese eggplant
- 4 green onions
- 8 oz sliced bamboo shoots
- 3 tablespoon chili paste Sambal Oelek
- 2 tablespoon black bean sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger paste
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Cut the pork tenderloin into 1 inch square pieces or strips. Place in a bowl to marinate with 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
- Trim the ends off the Chinese eggplant. Cut each eggplant lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into 2-inch long pieces. Toss lightly in a bowl with kosher salt and set aside to drain excess water.
- Prep sauce by mixing the remaining tablespoon of cornstarch, chili paste, black bean sauce, ginger, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar and sesame oil. Stir until the honey is dissolved. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and add the oil. Add the minced garlic and stir fry quickly. Add the pork in batches and stir fry quickly until browned. Don’t overcrowd the pan or you will steam the pork. We want this stir fried with crispy edges.
- Gently squeeze excess water from eggplant and add eggplant to pork in wok, stir fry until seared, about 3 minutes.
- Add the green onions, and bamboo shoots. Next add the sauce mixture and stir fry for a minute until fragrant and the sauce has thickened. If too thick add some chicken broth or water to thin.
- Serve with steamed rice or over noodles of choice.
- Boneless pork chops may be substituted, sliced into ½ inch strips.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.