Lagman or Asian Ratatouille Noodles

In central Asia/western China there is a popular dish called lagman that is essentially a stewed/stir fried vegetable dish over noodles.  Sometime lamb is added, but I think it is delicious as vegetarian dish.  Here is my version where I have added some Chinese influence and western technique.

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-in pieces
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, crushed and liquid reserved separately
2 onions diced
8 cloves of garlic smashed
2 Tbsp of ginger julienned
2 Tbsp of tomato paste (optional)
2 Tbsp of doubanjiang (optional)
1 Tbsp of dark soy sauce
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1-2 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 small zucchini, 1-in dice
1 small summer squash or another zucchini, 1-in dice
1 red bell pepper, 1-in dice
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, 1-in dice
1 Tbsp of black rice vinegar (prefer Shaanxi)
Light soy sauce to taste
cilantro for garnish
fresh wheat noodles

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Add onions, garlic, ginger then cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until onions are translucent and start to soften.
  4. Add tomato paste, doubanjiang, pepper flakes, spices and bay leaf then cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
  5. Stir in reserved tomato juice and reduce for a few minutes.
  6. Stir in eggplant and crushed tomatoes and dark soy sauce.
  7. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered for about 40 to 45 minutes, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown.
  8. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency.
  9. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers and 1 tbsp of light soy sauce then return pot to oven.
  10. Cook uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender.
  11. Remove pot from oven, cover and let stand for about 10 to 15 minutes until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife.
  12. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille.
  13. Discard bay leaf then stir in 2 tablespoons of cilantro and vinegar.
  14. Season with salt, light soy sauce and pepper to taste.
  15. Serve with favorite wheat noodles and additional cilantro to garnish.