The term "dry-fried" refers to a traditional style of Chinese cooking that does not necessarily mean less oil is used; these thick-cut pieces of eggplant are deep-fried.
At Peter Chang's China Grill in Charlottesville on any given day, this side dish can be found on every table, says manager Gen Lee.
Chinese eggplants are called for here because they contain fewer seeds than other eggplant varieties. You'll need a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil.
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot (chinese) chili powder
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot paprika
- About 6 (1 1/2 pounds total) Chinese (long) eggplants, trimmed, peeled and cut lengthwise into 2- or 3-inch-long, thick "steak" fries (about 8 fries from each eggplant)
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- Leaves and tender stems from 4 to 6 stems cilantro, coarsely chopped
Heat at least 4 inches of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees.
Place a wire rack over several layers of paper towels.
Combine the chili powder and paprika (to taste) in a small bowl.
Meanwhile, wet the eggplant fries with a little water. Spread the cornstarch on a rimmed baking sheet.
Working in batches, lightly and evenly coat the eggplant fries with the cornstarch, shaking off any excess. Discard any remaining cornstarch.
Carefully add about 8 fries at a time to the hot oil; fry for 2 minutes, or until just browned, crisped and tender. Use a Chinese skimmer or slotted spatula to transfer to the rack to drain. Repeat to fry all the eggplant.
Transfer the still-warm, crisped eggplant fries to a serving bowl; season with the chili powder-paprika mixture to taste; this dish is supposed to be spicy, and, if you can stand it, you should use enough of the mixture to color the eggplant fries a reddish-orange. Toss quickly with the cilantro; serve right away.
Adapted from a recipe by chef Peter Chang of Peter Chang's China Grill in Charlottesville.
Tested by Mike Cutler.
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