December 31, 2011
Nasu Dengaku - Miso-Glazed Eggplant
I first had this at a little Japanese restaurant in my neighbourhood, one which is both one of the best in town in addition to being one of the closest restaurants to my house. Vancouver is awash in a sea of sushi joints, often of middling quality, so one that offers dishes that go beyond the California roll are a joy to see.
The restaurant version of this tends to be deep fried, but lightly done, but the home version, simply popped under the broiler, is just as delicious, with a sweet and salty glaze that either revs up your taste buds as an appetizer, or beautifully complements a main course. It's also great in a bento (see below), either at room temperature or re-heated. I went a little light on the sauce, as you can see, and would probably use a little bit more next time. You can also use dark purple, smallish, round eggplants for this, which do tend to keep their colour a bit better, if elegance of presentation is important to you. Really large eggplants are likely too tough for this type of dish, however.
2 medium-small asian eggplants (thin skinned if possible)
3 tablespoons miso (I like red miso, but any will do)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
Wash and trim your eggplants, and halve lengthwise. Cut a large diamond pattern into the fleshy cut side with a sharp knife, not going down through the skin. Brush the cut side with sesame oil, and roast or broil, cut-side-down, for 10 to 20 minutes. You can also dry-roast the eggplant in a skillet on the stovetop, if you prefer.
Mix up the dengaku sauce of miso, sugar, mirin and sake, until thoroughly blended, and heat in a small saucepan. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon, until the sauce turns glossy, thinning with a couple of drops of water, if needed. Divide the sauce between the four pieces of eggplant, brushing it into the diamond cuts. Broil the eggplant very briefly to caramelize the edges of the sauce, slice into chopstick-friendly pieces, and serve. As you can see, I favour green onion as a garnish, because it looks very pretty, and the mild pungency of the onion is a nice contrast to the salty-sweet of the sauce.
The sauce also works as a lovely glaze for pan-seared tofu, or sauteed or broiled mushrooms.
Like the dinner plate above, this bento contains a layer of thinly sliced sesame beef with beech mushrooms on Japanese rice in the one tier, and nasu dengaku, black sesame carrot kinpira, and a mini cucumber in the other.
Happy New Year, everyone! May your year be filled with deliciousness.