Korean Eggplant Stir-fry (Gaji Bokkeum)

I love going to some of the local Korean markets because a lot of them are not afraid to sell ugly produce, and for cheaper. I think it's a pity that perfectly good produce will often go to waste in this land of plenty, with a fraction of that contributing to climate change and never making it to the mouths of those suffering with hunger.

I picked up a lovely batch of 4 Chinese eggplants, giving off the most excellent purple skins and creamy white insides for just a buck. Excited by my find, I whisked them up and decided to give them a makeover into delicious stir-fry (aka bokkeum in Korean).

ugly eggplants

Although this recipe is fairly easy and the cooking quick, you will need some patience while your eggplants are salted to draw out excess water (they are, after all, over 90% made up of water). This step is important since this will allow for better oil absorption during cooking, resulting in a creamy and not so soggy eggplant dish.

Prep Time: 1 hour

Serves: 6


  • 1.5 lbs Chinese eggplants ( ~4 small), sliced 1/3 inch thick

  • 2 tsp of fine sea salt

  • 1 cup finely sliced onion (~ 1 small)

  • 1/4 cup ( ~2) scallions finely chopped

  • 2 tbl oligosaccharide syrup like this one (you can also sub with honey, corn syrup or brown rice syrup)

  • 1 tbl of vegetable oil for frying

  • 1 tbl of sesame oil for frying

  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnishing (optional)

For the seasoning sauce:

  • 2 tbl mirin

  • 1 tbl medium bodied soy sauce

  • 1/2 tbl guk ganjang (or sub with regular medium-bodied soy sauce)

  • 1 tbl minced garlic

  • 1 tsp vinegar (preferably fruit-based, like plum or apple)

  • a big pinch of ground black pepper

1. Cut off the ends and peel away any blemishes. Lay them on their flat side before slicing.

2. Cut the eggplants diagonally, about 1/3 inch thick.

3. Place eggplant slices in a large mixing bowl and toss them with salt. Let sit for 45 minutes.

5. In the mean time slice your onions- begin by cutting them in half and removing the root area.

Then finely slice them.

6. Prepare your sauce. combine soy sauce(s), mirin, garlic and vinegar. Set aside.

7. After 45 minutes you will see that your eggplants have browned a bit and have drawn out some water at the bottom of the bowl. This is exactly what we want. 

8. Proceed onto grabbing a handful of the eggplants and gently squeezing out any excess water. Don't over do it, just enough so that the eggplants are no longer dripping wet. We don't want to draw out all the water.

9. Heat the vegetable and sesame oils in a medium wok or frying pan over medium high heat. Begin sautéing onions for about a minute or when they just begin to become translucent. About 1 minute.

Then add in your eggplants...

and stir-fry them constantly until their skins become a brighter purple and their flesh soft but not mushy. About 3 minutes.

10. Add in the seasoning sauce and stir around some more until the liquid has been fully absorbed by the eggplant and the sauce has caramelized. Add in your syrup and combine until well incorporated and the eggplants give off a nice sheen.

Remove from heat and stir in scallions.

Serve immediately and garnished with toasted sesame seeds if your desire. Enjoy! <3