At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, June 20, 2014


It's quintessentially Cantonese, and can be found in nearly every cheap eatery between here and Front Street. And yet, it's not Cantonese at all, being originally a Szechuanese dish. Yü-heung ke ji -- fish flavour sauce eggplant. In which the term 'fish flavour', or 'fish fragrance', has virtually no connection with actual fish. The name came about because the ingredients were popular for scaly things a while back and somewhere else.

Scallion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, hot bean paste, and black vinegar.
Plus, in its native place, chili peppers.

Here in San Francisco it's soul food. It's what you eat over rice when you don't really feel like anything too complicated or fussy, and really would rather surreptitiously listen in on other people talking.
You'll sit at the counter, hunkered over your meal, adding spoons full of chilipaste to your plate, with ears agog.

It's the perky man's dinner.


Two Chinese eggplants, cut into thick strips.
Two garlic cloves, minced.
Equivalent amount of ginger, ditto.
One scallion, also minced.
One fresh hot pepper, likewise.
Two TBS sherry or rice wine.
One TBS 豆瓣酱 ('dau-baan jeung': hot bean paste).
One TBS soy sauce.
One TBS fragrant black vinegar*.
A dab of chili-garlic sauce.
A pinch of sugar.
Cooking oil.
A few drops of dark sesame oil (芝麻油 'ji maa yau') or chili-oil (辣椒油 'laat chiu yau').

[Fragrant black vinegar: 鎮江香醋 ('jan-gong heung-cho': a flavourful dark rice vinegar produced in Jiangsu (江蘇 'gong sou') province, south-central China. 
FYI: Great for dipping dumplings.]

Heat oil in the pan to almost the smoking point, toss in the eggplant pieces and cook on high briefly, flipping and overturning them as you go.
Clear some space in the pan, add a little more oil, and dump the garlic, ginger, scallion, and chili in this space. Stirfry till the fragrance rises and the garlic is golden. Mix everything and continue, stirring and tossing as you go. Add everything else, stir to mix well, and decant it all to a serving plate.

You may dump a little more chopped scallion or cilantro on top for an artistic effect, but that really isn't necessary.
Rice to accompany it is.
Rice, and tea.

Watch out for middle-aged white men eating by themselves, my dear. They're actually listening in on you and your kinfolk having a fine old time with that nice steamed fish and the black bean crab.

BTW: 我識講廣東話。Just so you know.
Forewarned is foretongued.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


  • At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I usually know this one as eggplant in oyster sauce.

    By the way, what tea?

  • At 2:07 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Eggplant in oyster sauce is as good an incorrect description as any. Oolong, plus a bit of sui sien and a touch of jasmine.

  • At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I found that this was improved by the addition of extra liquid with cornstarch, as well as oyster sauce.
    I also used more garlic and scallion than you called for.

  • At 8:33 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Anonymous at 10:02 AM,

    Good pointers. Variation within a theme is always a good idea.

    My idea of a "dab of chili-garlic sauce" is rather outrageous. Others tend to prefer more modest mounts.


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