Stir Fried Japanese Eggplant with Ginger and Miso

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”.

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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.

Stir Fried Japanese Eggplant with Ginger and Miso Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

1 Stir the miso and the sake together in a small bowl, set aside.

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2 Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Then slice them on a diagonal, crosswise, in a little less than 1/2-inch thick slices.

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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.

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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.

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Recipe adapted from, and used with permission by, Nancy Hachisu, author of Japanese Farm Food.

Links:

Nasu no miso dengaku - slow roasted Japanese eggplant recipe from Maki of Just Hungry
Stuffed miso eggplant from Jaden of Steamy Kitchen
Yaki nasu - grilled Japanese eggplant by Tara of Tea and Cookies


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20 Comments

  1. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    I’ve never cooked with miso before. This looks so delicious!! Love Japanese eggplant!

  2. Kathleen

    Tried three of these at the farmers market. Their beautiful jewel like color were irresistible although the shape was daunting which was dumb because they are so much more tender and tasty than their big butt sisters. I only pan fried slices and ate them straight. Now I’m ready to step it up. Why did I wait all my life to stray from the familiar?

  3. Sues

    I don’t make eggplant dishes enough and I love the Asian-y kick to this!

  4. Tri

    This is great. My mom buys me these eggplants all the time (we’re Vietnamese) and I only know one way to cook them. I sautee them in oil and garlic until soft then make a sauce with black bean sauce, hoisin, soy and siracha. It’s quick and easy. This sounds like a nice alternative to my usual fare.

  5. Leah

    Would this work with regular eggplant?

    Maybe. If you try it, I would recommend peeling the eggplant first as the peels of a globe eggplant are much thicker than those of asian eggplants. ~Elise

  6. Angie

    Looks good! Where do you get your japanese eggplant seeds from? I want to grow some next year.

    I just bought starts from the nursery. ~Elise

  7. Jamie

    You can steam japanese eggplants for about 8-10 minutes and then dress them (with any type of sesame oil/soy sauce/black vinegar type mixture). There is a great recipe from Jean-Georges Vongerichten in his Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges that uses this technique. It is a great way to avoid the eggplant soaking up oil.

  8. Malli

    I love love love eggplant, and baba ganoush too. This is a really tangy, sweet and spicy sort of reipce. Awesome! I have to try it out!!

  9. Al in SoCal

    Hi Elise,

    About miso – is this something that can be subbed with something else? I don’t think I would use miso with anything else. Does it go bad?

    No, this particular recipe requires miso. It will last for many months in the fridge by the way. ~Elise

  10. Faith Kramer

    Great recipe with some of my favorite flavors — I think I’ll serve it over rice noodles for a pan-Asian dinner.

  11. Teresa F.

    This looks great. I only have red miso right now. I suppose it would still work in the recipe and just give it a more robust flavor?

    I love the creamy texture of Asian eggplants. I just used some in a Turkish vegetable stew. It was so good hot or room temperature. I still have some eggplant and will give this a try.

    Sure, Nancy’s recipe calls for a good quality miso, she doesn’t specify beyond that. I used white miso because I like its taste. I’m sure you could use a red miso too. ~Elise

  12. Judith

    Once you have roasted your Italian eggplant you can use the pulp to make a delicious eggplant souffle. There’s a great recipe in Anna Thomas’ Vegetarian Epicure. It’s flavored with garlic and a little parmesan, but neither one overpowers the delicate eggplant flavor.

    Even avowed eggplant haters have loved this!

  13. awineguy

    Try adding some chilis and shelled prawns to this for a great earthy, spicy seafood dish.

  14. Leah

    So I made this with regular eggplant and it was yummy. I peeled the eggplant (as suggested:) and cooked it a little longer, so that it had some nice brown bits but was still firm and juicy. I used white miso and regular mint. Will definitely make again, although I think the texture and finer flavor of the Asain eggplant would make this recipe really great.

    Thanks for reporting back and letting us know! ~Elise

  15. Kelly Senyei (Just a Taste)

    I just started cooking with miso a few months ago and I can’t believe how much amazing flavor I’d been missing out on. This recipe combines two of my favorites – eggplant and miso – and I can’t wait to give this a go this weekend. Thanks, Elise!

  16. Mimsey

    Made this recipe tonight using white miso. Absolutely delicious. The miso-sake sauce is wonderful, tho I think I will thin it out with a little more sake next time. The Japanese eggplant is so tender & mild. The chili pepper (I used a few shakes of flakes) and the ginger add just the right level of background zing, but it’s not spicy. The miso-sake is faintly sweet. Such a nice balance of flavors. The bonus is that this dish is so quick & easy to make!

  17. Lynn

    I’ve made a rendition of this- minus the red chili peppers and shiso. I’ll add them in next time. There’s just something about Japanese eggplant and miso. I look forward to checking out your friend Nancy’s new book!

  18. ash wang

    thank you for sharing this recipe! :) for an authentically japanese taste, I’d suggest doing without the red chili peppers and the shiso/basil/mint, and also stir frying the eggplant slices in a very lightly flavored oil like olive or canola. i followed the recipe closely minus the shiso/basil/mint and i personally found the spiciness of the red chilis and the extra aromatic spices, with the exception of ginger, to be at odds with the “umami” taste of the eggplant, as was the sesame oil ( a bit too pungent for me.)

  19. Caroline

    Made this yesterday with red miso and thai basil. DELICIOUS! And so easy to make! Thank you for another winning recipe. I actually have Nancy Hachisu’s cookbook, but missed the recipe. Your blog is one of my go-to recipe sources. Thank you, Elise.

  20. Susan

    Hey thanks for this recipe, I’m going to try it! I used eggplant in a Chinese style on my blog (http://flavor-scout.com/2013/09/03/kung-pao-eggplant/) but hadn’t thought to do a Japanese inspired dish. I LOVE miso, and love Japanese and my family loves eggplant so I’m definitely doing this one soon.

    Thanks for sharing!

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