Contributed by Chef Rui Liu
Photo: Chef Rui Liu
Photo: Chef Rui Liu

Signature eggplant dish is worth drive

My wife, Carolyn, and I were introduced to Masterpiece Restaurant by an acquaintance, Christiane Lauterbach, who is the much acclaimed food critic for Atlanta magazine. The restaurant requires a trek from central Atlanta. It is far out on Buford Highway and is tucked into a nondescript strip mall. It is small and unprepossessing — but do not be fooled. The cuisine lives up to the restaurant’s name. One of their signature dishes, Eggplant with Chili Powder and Pepper Ash Powder, is alone worth the journey. It is the dish around which we build our meal. We would be so grateful if it were possible to secure the recipe. Thank you. — Peter Cobb, Atlanta

Chef Rui Liu was happy to share the recipe for Masterpiece’s Eggplant with Chili Powder and Pepper Ash Powder, also called Dry Fried Eggplant. The ingredient list is not long, but we did make a few substitutions since we didn’t have everything in our pantry.

When we couldn’t find Chinese eggplant readily available in our area, we tested the recipe with a small Italian eggplant. It worked fine, although an Italian eggplant might not be as tender as the Chinese variety. The chicken seasoning used at the restaurant is granulated chicken soup base. We suggest trying this with granulated chicken bouillon or you could just a 1/4 teaspoon of the jarred soup base available in the soup section of your grocery store. For the dried red peppers, we suggest sliced red Thai peppers, sliced chile del arbol or dried red pepper flakes. Please be conscious of the heat tolerance in your household and adjust the red pepper, cayenne and Sichuan peppercorn levels to taste.

Sichuan peppercorns are also called “dehydrated prickly ash” so you may find them sold by either name.

Masterpiece’s Eggplant with Chili Powder and Pepper Ash Powder

Masterpiece’s Eggplant with Chili Powder and Pepper Ash Powder
  • 2 Chinese eggplants, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/4 cup sliced dried red peppers, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Rinse eggplant strips. Put cornstarch in a pie plate and add eggplant strips, turning strips to cover all surfaces with cornstarch. Discard any unused cornstarch.
  • Heat enough vegetable oil in a wok to cover the eggplant by two inches. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Carefully put eggplant strips into hot oil and cook until light brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Do not crowd oil. Drain cooked eggplant and set aside. Continue until all strips are done.
  • When eggplant is cooked, drain oil from wok. Return eggplant to wok along with whatever oil is left in the bottom, and add the sliced peppers, cilantro leaves, salt, ground Sichuan pepper, garlic, chili powder, chicken bouillon granules and sugar. Stir fry 10 seconds. Remove from heat, let sit 1 -2 minutes, then serve. Makes 2 servings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 312 calories (percent of calories from fat, 39), 5 grams protein, 47 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated), trace cholesterol, 181 milligrams sodium.

From the menu of … Masterpiece, 3940 Buford Highway, Duluth. 770-622-1191. www.facebook.com/pg/Masterpiece-658304740912215/

Is there a recipe from a metro Atlanta restaurant you’d like to make at home? Tell us and we’ll try to get it. We’ll also test it and adapt it for the home kitchen. Because of volume, we can’t answer all inquiries. Send your request, your address and phone number to fromthemenu@gmail.com and put “From the menu of” and the name of restaurant in the subject line.

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