Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Tahini Sauce

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Fellow gardeners, do you ever plant something because you like the look of it, but grow more than you know what to do with? That’s been my relationship to the Japanese eggplants in my garden.

I love to grow them. They hide out trellised against a fence behind my garden bed. They’re a beautiful deep shade of purple, long and elegant.

But unlike tomatoes, you can’t just chop them up and toss them in a salad. Eggplants need to be cooked. Japanese or Asian eggplants are more delicate than their Italian globe brethren. They cook faster, the peels are thinner, and the cooked flesh is creamier.

Japanese eggplant

An easy way to cook this type of eggplant is to grill it, either on a grill or in a grill pan, with high, searing heat. Don’t be afraid of those char marks. They’re delicious. The best part. These grilled eggplant we are serving with a creamy sesame tahini sauce, which works beautifully with the eggplant (and would go great with other veggies as well.)

I have only a few recipes for my garden Japanese eggplants and am always looking for more. So if you have any ideas, please let me know about them in the comments!

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Tahini Sauce Recipe

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  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4 as a side dish.

If you don't have a grill, you can use a grill pan or a cast iron pan on the stove top. Just spread some oil over the bottom of the pan so the eggplants don't stick, heat on high heat, follow the recipe for preparing the eggplants, and "grill" the eggplants on the hot pan.

Ingredients

  • 4 Japanese eggplants (about 1 1/4 pound total)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp of olive oil

Tahini sauce

  • 1/4 cup roasted sesame tahini
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Thai basil for garnish

Method

japanese eggplants score eggplants with cross hatch pattern

1 Slice the Japanese eggplants in half, lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, score the inside surface of the eggplants in a cross hatch pattern, 1/2 inch deep. Lay in a tray and sprinkle the exposed, scored side with salt. Let sit at least 20 minutes (or up to an hour or more) while the grill is coming to temperature and while you make the tahini sauce. The salt will help draw out excess moisture from the eggplants.

2 Prepare your grill for high, direct heat. While the grill is heating, prepare the tahini sauce.

3 If you have a mini chopper, place all of the tahini sauce ingredients in it and pulse until smooth. If you don't have a mini chopper, mince the garlic and parsley very very fine, and then use a fork or a small whisk to whisk all of the ingredients together. (You can also use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic with the salt and sugar until it is a smooth paste, then whisk together all of the ingredients.)

japanese eggplants grilled cut side down japanese eggplants grilled cut side up

4 When your grill is ready and hot, pat the eggplants dry with a paper towel, and brush the insides with olive oil. Place the eggplant halves cut-side down on the hot grill. Press them down a little so they make good contact with the grill. Grill on the cut side until well browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. When they are well seared on one side, flip them over and cook on the other side until the eggplants are cooked all the way through, another couple minutes or so. Brush again with a little olive oil.

5 Remove from grill, place on a plate and serve with tahini sauce. Garnish with Thai basil.

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Showing 4 of 25 Comments

  • RKLB

    I enjoy your website a lot and am very happy to see this post. Now I can contribute a little. :)

    The easiest and the best way to enjoy Japanese eggplants (well, at least for Japanese like myself) is to just grill them, skin on, until the skin is burnt (this can be done with the toaster oven). Then, peel the skin off and pour the soy sauce, citrus soy sauce, or Dashi soy sauce, with some bonito flakes or scallion on top. The amount of juice coming out from the grilled eggplants are just amazing and it’s a very important part of the sauce, too. Another my favorite dish is to slice and stir-fried them with butter (and garlic if you like), and add some soy sauce at the end. You can add some chopped herbs for garnish, like Shiso (Japanese basil) or even cilantro. Yummm.

    Eggplants that are harvested during the fall are considered to be a delicacy in Japan, BTW.

  • Dawn

    We had some friends over to have dinner with us last night, and guess what they brought with them? Japanese eggplants fresh from their garden! They were amazed that I had a recipe immediately in mind, when I started to make this dish. I had my husband grill the eggplants while I put the sauce together. I had a little homemade hummus, so I mixed it one to one with the tahini sauce. It came together very quickly and was absolutely delicious. Our friends seemed very happy with it. Thanks Elise!

  • Rog

    hmmm very easy to prepare.. adding up with egg, its perfect for breakfast!

  • Jeanne Horak-Druiff

    Oh I love grilled eggplant :) Have not come across Japanese eggplant before but I think I might deputise my other half to start growing it on his allotment!

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