Hongshao Qiezi (Red-Cooked Eggplant)

Red-Cooked Eggplant (Hongshao Qiezi)

Red-Cooked Eggplant (Hongshao Qiezi)

With ingredients like dill, chiles de árbol, and anchovies, this dish is far from authentic Shanghainese, but it's totally delicious.Penny De Los Santos

When San Francisco finally gained a Shanghainese restaurant in the 1970s, my mother, who was raised in Shanghai, insisted our family try their red-cooked eggplant. I can recall the melting tenderness of the vegetable, colored a dark red from braising in soy sauce and sugar. Mama never cooked eggplant this way at home, perhaps because my father insisted on eating Cantonese. Years later I learned from my friend Florence Lin how to prepare it. While ground pork or dried shrimp can be added, she favored just Asian eggplant cooked in peanut oil and then braised in soy sauce along with ginger, sugar, and water. I've recently discovered another intriguing take on the recipe, from Danny Bowien of the Mission Chinese Food restaurants in San Francisco and New York. Bowien employs ingredients—dill, chiles de arbol, anchovies—that no Shanghainese home cook would. But the result is just as delicious. —Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge (Simon & Schuster, 2010)