Eggplant has always been a rather challenging vegetable for me. Usually I get these big whoppers that stare at me for a week before I finally roast them and make baba ganoush. Eggplant isn’t like green beans or broccoli that you can just steam and top with butter. You really need to do something with it. Fortunately, Japanese eggplant is, in my opinion, a lot easier to work with than globe eggplant. These asian eggplants are long and narrow, are much more delicate on the inside and have more tender skin. They’re lovely. This recipe for Japanese eggplant stir-fried with ginger in a miso sake sauce comes from my friend Nancy Hachisu’s stunning new cookbook, Japanese Farm Food (great book!), and according to Nancy, is her husband Tadaki’s “soul food”.
This year I’m growing Japanese eggplant in my garden, and have been using this recipe every time a few more eggplants get long and ripe enough to pick. So good! And so easy to make. The few ingredients are easy enough to come by, especially if you have access to an Asian market or Whole Foods. Here in Northern California you can find Japanese eggplant, miso, and sake at Safeways and Raley’s. Nancy uses shiso, a Japanese mint-like herb in this dish, which can sometimes be a challenge to find. I’m growing Thai basil which worked great as a substitute, you can also sub regular fresh mint.
Nancy's recipe calls for shiso, a mint-like herb that you often find served with sushi in Japanese restaurants here in the states. I don't have shiso around but am growing Thai basil which was a lovely substitute. You could also use a little sliced fresh mint. If you don't have dried chili peppers, try using a generous pinch of red chili pepper flakes.
- 2 Tbsp good quality miso (we used white miso)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sake
- 1 pound (450 g) Japanese eggplants (4 to 5 long, skinny eggplants)
- 6 Tbsp canola oil, cold-pressed sesame oil, grape seed oil, rice bran oil, or other high smoke-point oil
- 2 whole, dried red chili peppers, torn in half
- 1 Tbsp peeled, slivered fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp finely sliced shiso leaves, Thai basil leaves, or fresh mint leaves
1 Stir the miso and the sake together in a small bowl, set aside.
2 Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Then slice them on a diagonal, crosswise, in a little less than 1/2-inch thick slices.
3 Heat the chilies in the oil in a wok or large skillet on medium heat. Once the chilies start to sizzle, and you can smell the aroma of the chilies, add the ginger and eggplant slices, and toss to coat with the oil. Stir gently for several minutes until the eggplant pieces are shiny and soft.
4 Add the miso-sake mixture to the eggplant pieces and gently stir to coat. Remove from heat. Stir in the chopped shiso, Thai basil, or mint leaves, and serve immediately.