This vegan eggplant dish, flavored with soy sauce, mirin, and a hint of brown sugar, is a very popular home cooking dish in Japan. When chef and cookbook author Atsuko Ikeda she steams the aubergines whole to preserve their moisture and flavour.
The recipe, found in her new cookbook, “Otsumami: Japanese Small Bites & Appetizers: Over 70 Recipes to Enjoy with Drinks” (Ryland Peters & Small, $28) calls for grinding sesame seeds into a paste to make the sauce. to bind. A food processor gets the job done just fine. Serve it with your favorite vegetarian sushi rolls.
Eggplant With Sesame Soy Sauce
1 ounce toasted white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon light brown soft sugar
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
Pinch of fresh chives, finely chopped
Peel the skin off the aubergines, but leave the stems on for now (they can be easily removed when cooked).
Bring enough water – enough to cover the aubergines by about a third – to a boil in a large saucepan. Place the whole aubergines in the pan, cover with a lid and let them steam for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through.
Meanwhile, to make the sesame soy sauce, grind the toasted white sesame seeds into a granular paste in a food processor, spice grinder, or traditional Japanese tool called a suribachi. Place the ground sesame seeds in a bowl with the toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar. Stir together and set aside.
Once the aubergines are cooked, remove them from the pan and let them cool until you can handle them easily. Tear the aubergines lengthwise with your fingers; remove and discard the stems. Place in a serving bowl, stir the sesame soy sauce again and spoon over the aubergines to dress.
Serve the eggplants slightly warm or keep them in the fridge and serve them chilled when you’re done – either way will work. Just before serving, drizzle with chili oil and sprinkle over the grated ginger and chopped chives.
— From “Otsumami: Japanese Small Bites and Appetizers: 70+ Recipes to Enjoy with Drinks” by Atsuko Ikeda (Ryland Peters & Small, $28)