2 large eggplants (about 800g), sliced into 1cm-thick discs
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
rice, to serve
2 green onions (shallots), finely sliced, for topping
toasted white sesame seeds, to serve
2 small cloves garlic, grated
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons rice vinegar or Shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon five-spice powder

Char siu, the strips of barbecued roast pork with their signature crimson exterior, is a treasured Cantonese meat, and the most popular siu mei dish. Siu mei is a term that refers to the roasted meats popular in Hong Kong, but also commonly found in Chinatown windows around the world. Most city-dwelling Cantonese kids grew up eating siu mei – during my carnivorous youth, as my mother arrived home from the store, I would sidle up with my best good-daughter face and charm a few slices of warm, juicy char siu and crispy pork crackling before dinnertime. In this recipe, eggplant is marinated, char siu-style, in a fragrant, fruity barbecue sauce. Eggplant, a renowned carrier of flavour, greedily absorbs the sauce before it is roasted at high heat, emerging sweet and silky, imbued with lots of dark, caramelised notes. A note for gluten-intolerant cooks: make sure your hoisin sauce is gluten free.

This marinade is incredibly versatile and can be used to marinate and roast firm tofu and other vegetables in the exact same way. This is best eaten with rice, of course, but it’s also good stuffed into a crusty roll with coriander, mint and salad leaves, or used to make eggplant char siu bao.

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1.To make the char siu sauce, whisk together all the ingredients in a large bowl.
2.Add the eggplant slices and marinate for 30–60 minutes or up to 4 hours in the fridge.
3.Preheat the oven to 200°C.
4.Line a baking tray with baking paper.
5.Lay the marinated eggplant slices on the prepared tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 15 minutes.
6.Remove the tray from the oven and flip the eggplant over.
7.Using a pastry brush, baste each slice with the marinade and drizzle with more olive oil, then return to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.
8.Cook for 2 minutes, until golden underneath, then flip over.
9.When cooked, brush the tops of the eggplant slices with more of the marinade and season well with sea salt.
10.Serve the eggplant with rice, topped with the green onion and sesame seeds.

This is an edited extract
by Hetty Lui McKinnon,

Macmillan Publishers,

RRP $69.99. Food

photography by Hetty

Lui McKinnon, author

photo by Shirley Cai.