There are a couple of Japanese dishes that I make over and over again. A couple of eggplant dishes, a tofu dish and a noodle dish. This eggplant dish is quite amazing and may change your mind about eggplant all together (in a good way).
You won’t believe that this is eggplant! It is SO delicious!
Mirin is a Japanese sweet cooking wine. It is made from steamed mochigome rice, komekoji (rice yeast), and shochu (Japanese liquor), which are mixed and and fermented. Mirin is clear and light gold in color and is usually sold in a bottle. It adds a nice lustre to ingredients, as well as a wonderful aroma.
As it is an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking, it can be found in any Asian shop or sometimes in the gourmet section of supermarkets.
The use of mirin is said to have begun over 400 years ago. Although it was used for drinking in the beginning, it has been used for only cooking since it was made to be thicker and sweeter.
Toasted Sesame Oil
Toasted Sesame Oil is a wonderful secret ingredient to many Asian dishes including Chinese and Japanese. Use only the best quality, and organic if you can. Good quality, cold pressed Sesame Oil is made from high quality seeds that are carefully toasted and cold pressed to produce smooth, deeply flavoured and aromatic oil without the burnt seed flavour often found in lower quality oils.
The oil has a wonderful nutty flavour, but don’t use too much of it – it can be overpowering. A drizzle here, a drop there, is enough.
Baked Eggplant with Mirin and Miso Paste
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves: 1/2 eggplant per person for an entree, 1 eggplant per person for a lunch or main course
0.5 – 1 eggplant per person
toasted sesame oil
light – medium miso paste (if you use dark miso, spread it quite thinly)
sesame seeds – white or a combination of black and white
With a sharp knife, slice the eggplants in two lengthwise, then score deeply right around the edge of the flesh and cross-score the cut face to make a criss-cross pattern. This not only looks good but also makes the eggplant easier to eat.
Brush the cut surfaces lightly with sesame oil. Drizzle mirin over the surface, allowing it to sink into the cuts.
Take a little miso paste and, with a knife, smear it across the surface quite thinly, or the taste will overwhelm the dish. Push it a little into the cuts. (The lighter the miso that you use, the more of it you can put in the dish, but go carefully the first time that you make this.)
Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. You can make a nice pattern with the black and white sesame seeds.
Bake in a medium (200°C) oven until quite soft, about 40 minutes or so. It is really important that it is cooked VERY WELL, otherwise it won’t be wonderful. You know how eggplant starts to collapse when it is cooked? Not quite there, but close.
Serve hot or at room temperature with pickled ginger and a green salad.
There is no need to use as many sesame seeds as we did for the photos. A lighter hand is better.
It is a perfect first course. Or a great lunch with a salad.
Or add some tofu in an Asian sauce and some green vegetables glazed with a little sesame oil and lightly sprinkled with sesame seeds for a more substantial meal.
Eat with chop sticks. The blocks of eggplant come away very easily from the skin.