The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is set in my hometown of San Francisco. Though I am not Chinese-American, many of the friends I had growing up were. I spent many weekends at their houses with their parents, who prepared us delicious delicacies.

I pulled this book off of my bookshelf to read. I have a ton of books that I still need to read. This was a great random pull from the shelf.

The Joy Luck Club is about both the first generation American children of Chinese mothers and the stories of the mothers themselves, wishing that their daughters would be able to understand their histories. This book focuses around four mothers and their daughters. Each mother, having immigrated to the US from China, came from vastly different circumstances from each other: from village life and literally running for their lives to living in somewhat luxury, each woman explains the sorrow and the pain they experienced in their lives, hoping to make their daughters’ lives better than their own.

Because this book was very much about the sharing of culture, the past generation with the new, there was a lot of food reference in this book:

  • Red bean soup
  • Black sesame seed soup
  • Dumplings shaped like silver money ingots, long rice noodles for long life, boiled peanuts for conceiving sons
  • Porridge
  • Wontons
  • Chow mein, wonton soup, chaswei
  • Buncakes
  • Syaumei, a little dumpling
  • Mooncake in the shape of a rabbit
  • Zong zi – the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves
  • Steamed pastries and dim sum, fragrant red beans, fried sesame balls, and sweet curried chicken crescents
  • Sauce coated eggplant
  • Shrimp and snowpeas
  • Steamed pork and preserved vegetables
  • Can of chicken noodle soup
  • Crab dinner seasoned with ginger and scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil
  • Steamed dumplings, duck’s gizzards
  • Spicy bean-curd dish smelling of ginger, scallions, and red chili sauce
  • A thin pancake with an egg dropped in the middle, brushed with black bean paste, then rolled up
  • Ywansyau – sticky sweet dumpling
  • Fortune cookie
  • Soup steaming out of a carved winter melon, chicken wrapped in clay
  • Hamburger, french fries, and apple pie a la mode

This dish, the eggplant in coated in sauce, comes from the part of the book where one of the grown daughters, Waverly Jong, brings her boyfriend Rich to her parents’ house for dinner. Rich is not what Lindo Jong expected would be the type of man her daughter Waverly would marry, an American man with freckles. Rich tries very hard to impress the Jong family. Though offered a fork to eat his meal, he opted to try the chopsticks. As he went to take a bite of the eggplant, the eggplant falls from his grip onto his crisp white shirt and then onto the crotch of his pants.

This scene shows a ton of cultural etiquette clashes. Besides dropping his eggplant on himself, he takes far more food than appropriate for what the Jong’s expect, he refuses seconds, and then proceeds to pour soy sauce all over Lindo’s famous steamed pork and preserved vegetables. This scene seemed like an appropriate one to capture, so enjoy some eggplant!

Chinese Eggplant in Garlic Sauce


2 Chinese eggplant
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp cornstarch, divided
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar or sugar substitute
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced


  1. Cut eggplant into bite size pieces. Place in a bowl and cover with water and mix in salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain water off and pat dry.
  2. In a small bowl combine 1 tsp of the cornstarch, soy sauce, and sugar. Set aside.
  3. Toss the eggplant with the remaining cornstarch.
  4. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet. Fry the eggplant for about 4 minutes per side, or until soft. Remove from the skillet.
  5. If more oil is needed, add more oil to the skillet. Add the ginger and garlic. After 1 minute, pour in the soy sauce mixture. Add in the eggplant and toss until well coated.

Serves 2.

This entry is shared with Foodies Read, Weekend Cooking, and Full Plate Thursday.

EDITED 2/28/19:

I just learned of a great reading challenge that I’ll be participating in called Year of Asian Reading. Since this book fits and since I have many books by Asian authors on my bookshelf, I’m joining!

I am challenging myself to read at least 10 books by Asian authors this year, which would earn me the Philippine tarsier badge.


7 thoughts on “The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

  1. I love this book and the movie too. Great dish to represent–although it’s been a while, I can remember that scene so well! 😉 (The eggplant looks amazing too!)


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