The first character in the name of this week's dish should be familiar to you from Wednesday's post on 魚/yú/fish. However, despite the name, which literally translates to "fish-fragrant", the 魚香 (yú xiāng) style of cooking doesn't actually involve any fish! Due to this, it's sometimes translated as "sea-spiced" instead. Fish-fragrant dishes are hot and salty, with side notes of sour and sweet; it's quite tricky to get the balance of this right, and some lesser renditions I've encountered have been much more like sweet-and-sour dishes than properly fish-fragrant.
One of the most important ingredients in getting the right flavour is 豆瓣醬 (dòu bàn jiàng) — also known as chilli bean paste. This is a spicy, salty, fermented mash of broad beans and chillies, and it's brilliant for adding flavour to almost anything. However! There are many different kinds of bean pastes that go under the name of 豆瓣醬 (a detailed discussion of bean pastes can be found on the eGullet forums).
I used to use Lee Kum Kee brand, until I read about a mini taste-test conducted by Fuchsia Dunlop and the head chef of Barshu restaurant. On the back of this, I went out and got some Chuan Lao Hui (川老匯) brand instead [photo], which I much prefer. Unlike the Lee Kum Kee stuff, the Chuan Lao Hui bean paste has only four ingredients: chilli, broad beans, salt, and wheat flour [photo]. When this jar runs out, I'll be trying Fuchsia's top recommendation of the 豆瓣醬 from the Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co Ltd (Londoners: this is available at See Woo on Lisle Street in Chinatown).
One of the most common 魚香 dishes is 魚香肉絲 (yú xiāng ròu sī) — fish-fragrant shredded pork. However, the dish I'm posting about today is a vegetable-based one — 魚香茄子 (yú xiāng qié zi), aka fish-fragrant aubergine (eggplant). My recommended recipe is Fish Fragrant Aubergine from the always-reliable blog Sunflower's Food Galore. While the recipe as written does include pork mince, Sunflower suggests using soaked and chopped shiitake mushrooms instead for a meat-free (and, in fact, vegan) version.