This is a spectacularly fabulous way to cook aubergine from The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. A light frying precedes seasoning and steaming resulting in a decadently rich and silky bowl of food. The black beans add a definite umami hit, their creamy saltiness released by the initial frying of the topping. The preserved mustard rounds out the savouriness - if there is such a word! - and the chilli flakes add a dimension of heat. I tend to be light handed with the chilli flakes so that the topping is balanced against the delicacy of the aubergine.
Steaming the lot for 20 minutes melds the elements and creates a gloriously tantalizing texture. If you like aubergine, you will love this.
Bowl Steamed Aubergines
600g aubergines - long pale oriental ones or ordinary deep purple both work
125 ml groundnut oil
50g preserved mustard greens
1 tbspn black beans, rinsed
1/2 tspn chili flakes
1 spring onion, green part only, finely sliced
Cut off and discard the stems of the aubergines. Cut each one in half lengthwise, and then in half again lengthwise, then each long quarter into 1cm slices. Put the aubergine into a colander.
Sprinkle liberally with salt and leave to drain for 30-60 minutes.
Give the preserved mustard greens a thorough rinse under the cold tap, shake them dry and then fry them in a tablespoon of peanut oil with the black beans in a wok to lose their moisture. When they are fragrant add chilli flakes to taste.
Heat the remaining oil in a wok until it reaches 180C/350F. Add the aubergine slices, a few at a time, and fry until soft and tinged with gold. Drain on a plate covered with kitchen paper.
Lay the neatest slices of aubergine, skin side down, in a heatproof bowl, then add the rest of the aubergine on top of the tidy ones. Scatter the black bean/ mustard green mix over the top.
Steam for 20 minutes.
To serve you can turn it out onto a serving plate if it's one dish among many to display a glossy black jigsaw but for us it's simpler to serve straight from the bowl, simply scattered with spring onions.
This week we had it with a bowl of steamed tofu, last time I made steamed chicken with salted chillies and the first time there was ma po and every time it was great.