Make the chile oil in advance; it needs to sit for at least 24 hours before using. If you like, you can make it up to 3 months ahead and keep a jar on-hand in the fridge for use in all sorts of Sichuan dishes.
Form the meatballs and wontons the night before and refrigerate them, wrapped in plastic, on a parchment-lined baking sheet until you’re ready to cook them.
Sichuan-style fried eggplant is firm yet creamy and bursting with flavor, but cooking it can be a challenge—eggplant’s porous flesh soaks up oil like a sponge and can quickly go from silky to sodden. Danny Bowien, chef-owner of the Mission Chinese Food restaurants in New York and San Francisco, has some tips on technique.
Read more about Sichuan cuisine in Matt Gross’s story Capital of Heat, from SAVEUR issue #154. For hard-to-find ingredients, see our guide to the flavors of Sichuan »