Today’s recipe is a delicious and easy recipe for spicy stuffed steamed eggplant (Gochujang gaji-jjim: 고추장가지찜). It has a deep, savory, spicy flavor and is a great side dish for rice. The eggplant is soft and a little sweet, and if you like spicy food I guarantee you’ll be eating the sauce right out of the bottom of the pan after the eggplant is done! : )
I was inspired to develop this recipe by watching a Korean TV show about a family who escaped from North Korea about 12 years ago. To defect to South Korea, they first had to cross the border to China, and during the crossing they got caught by the Chinese police. The Chinese police gave them a choice: either the whole family goes back to North Korea, or the daughter can go back by herself and the rest of the family can continue to China.
Either option was terrible, but they decided that the daughter would go back to North Korea and the rest of family would go to South Korea via China. Probably the mother told her daughter she would bring her as soon as they settled down in South Korea.
But it could never happened. They came to South Korea and tried hard to find their daughter but they couldn’t get any information at all. She and her husband are currently living near the North Korean border, missing their daughter everyday.
The mother said: “My daughter loves spicy food. Whenever I made this spicy steamed eggplant and steamed green chili peppers, she really enjoyed it! She mixed her rice with cold water and ate it with these side dishes!”
She said: “My heart is really broken whenever I think about her eating this dish so deliciously.”
I may post the other dish steamed stuffed peppers someday too. The TV show was very touching and sad, and I couldn’t help crying, but I was also so curious about the dishes. I really wanted to taste her spicy stuffed eggplant! I could see her making it, but there was no recipe given, so I tried recreating it. In my first experiments I added some meat or seafood to make it more tasty, but eventually I went back to the meat-free version like the mother on the TV show. She didn’t explain how to make her red seasoning paste, so I had to do some experiments and come up with my own.
So my recipe may taste a little different from her original recipe, but I can say that it’s delicious enough to share with my readers. I hope her family reunites someday. As a mother myself, I can’t imagine how tortured she must be.
Enjoy this recipe, and be thankful of the people you have around you who love you. We need to cherish them everyday.
1 pound Asian eggplant (about 3 long and thin eggplants), washed.
They should be small enough to fit into the bowl you are steaming in. If not, cut them into smaller pieces.
Asian eggplant works best for this because they are thinner and smaller than the eggplants I find in the USA and Canada, and they have a thinner skin, too. But you can use those bigger eggplants. Just cut them into smaller, thinner pieces. You may need to steam them longer, just keep checking as you steam.
Gochujang gaji-jjim made with American Eggplant
For seasoning paste:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Korean hot pepper flakes
- ¼ cup Korean hot pepper paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Make seasonings & prepare steamer:
- Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add vegetable oil, garlic, onion, and stir fry for 1 minute.
- Add green onion and stir fry for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the garlic turns light brown and fragrant.
- Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes. Add hot pepper flakes, soy sauce, hot pepper paste, sugar, ground black pepper, toasted sesame oil, and salt. Mix it well with a spoon.
- Fill your steamer pot with about 1 inch of water and insert the steaming basket. Cover and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, prepare eggplants:
- Cut off the stems of the eggplants and discard.
- Slit the eggplants a few times lengthwise, starting about 1 inch from the stem end and keeping the ends intact so the slit pieces are still joined together. The slits should be ½ inch apart.
- Stuff the eggplants with the seasoning paste by hand (or a spoon) evenly. Use all the seasoning paste and put them into a heat proof bowl.
- When the water in the steamer is boiling, your steamer is ready. Put the eggplant bowl into the steaming basket.
- Cover and steam for 12 to 15 minutes over medium high heat until the eggplant is nicely cooked, but not mushy. You can check by poking with a wooden skewer or a chopstick: it should go through with some firmness. If it can’t go through easily, you need to steam it longer. If it goes through like butter, you steamed too long.
- Remove the steamer from the heat and take out the bowl of eggplant. Serve right away with rice and other side dishes.
- The North Korean way of eating it is to take a bite of rice, then tear off a strip of eggplant with your fingers. Put your head back and drop the strip in your mouth!