Like many people, I’m a big fan of Japanese food. I consider Japanese cuisine to be in a class of its own, with its emphasis on unique, fresh flavours and aesthetic presentation.
That said, I also find Japanese cooking to be very challenging. What looks to be a simple dish often involves plenty of preparatory work, skill and zen-like focus throughout. If you take shortcuts or cut corners, chances are you won’t get a fully authentic result.
Hence, for a long time I was too intimidated to attempt cooking Japanese food at home. Then I came across Emi Kazuko’s excellent cookbook Japanese Cooking. This book is well written, with detailed descriptions of various Japanese ingredients. The recipes vary in difficulty, but overall they’re easy enough for most cooks to follow.
This recipe for Nasu-miso or fried eggplant in miso sauce, has become one of my favourites. It’s simple and easy to prepare, and the taste is simply extraordinary. The soft, chewy texture of the eggplant is complemented with the unique taste of miso and a rich sauce made from Japanese condiments.
Nasu-miso (Fried Eggplant with Miso Sauce)
Adapted from Japanese Cooking by Emi Kazuko
2 servings, as a main. Best served in a traditional Asian multi-course meal.
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
1-2 dried chillies, soaked and drained
2 tbsp (30ml) sake
2 tbsp (30ml) mirin
2 tbsp (30ml) sugar (preferably caster or superfine)
1 tbsp (15ml) shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
2 tbsp (30ml) miso paste (white or red miso depending on individual taste. See Cook’s Notes below)
2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil
2 tbsp (30ml) sesame oil
Cut the eggplant into 1-inch (3cm) cubes.
Optional: Place cut eggplant pieces into a large colander and sprinkle with salt. Allow to stand for 30 minutes for the bitter juices to drain away.
Slice the chillies into thin rings. De-seed if desired to reduce the spiciness.
Mix the sake, mirin, shoyu and sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the miso paste with 3 tbsp (45ml) water to form a paste.
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large pan. Add the chilli and heat until fragrant and the oil begins to smoke. Add the eggplant and cover for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally with cooking chopsticks or a spatula. Drizzle the sesame oil over the eggplant and continue stirring for another 4 minutes, or until tender.
Lower heat to medium. Add the sake mixture to the pan and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. (If the sauce begins to burn, lower the heat some more and add 1-2 tbsp of water to the pan). Add the miso paste and continue stir-frying for another 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and serve hot.
- Use authentic shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) for best results. Japanese soy sauce has a more delicate flavour compared to Chinese soy sauce.
- The original recipe calls for dark red aka miso or hatcho miso, however I prefer white miso, which has a lower sodium content. White miso also has a lighter flavour.
- I’ve found that most of the hybridised eggplant sold today isn’t very bitter and hence doesn’t need the additional salting prior to cooking. Of course, if the eggplant you’re using is a bitter variety then you might need to sait it.