By Mari Nameshida/Special to The Japan NewsThis month I’d like to introduce a tasty vegetarian eggplant dish that can also be enjoyed by non-vegetarians. Eggplants are a treat in the humid Japanese summer, and I love the vegetable in any cuisine, from traditional Japanese to Italian or Israeli. I’ve heard some people dislike them because they think they’re bitter, stringy or lack flavor, but they’re actually a very versatile food that can be creamy and rich since their spongy texture absorbs other flavors.
I have many favorite eggplant recipes, including nasu no agebitashi (deep-fried eggplant marinated in sauce), nasu no dengaku (grilled eggplant with sweet miso sauce), nasu no ichiyazuke (eggplant pickled overnight) and baba ganoush eggplant dip. The dish I’ll go with today is nasu no mushibitashi, which means “steamed eggplant marinated in sauce.”
When people cook eggplants, they often grill or deep-fry them in a lot of oil to give them a creamy, melted texture. But I steam the vegetable in this recipe to give it the same creaminess but with a very light taste. While I’m a foodie and have a big appetite all year round, I can’t stand the high humidity and often crave something lighter in the summer. This is perhaps my favorite dish to start a meal with when the days get hot.
You’ll find there are several ways to season mushibitashi. Some use dashi soup stock as a base, while others use spicy seasonings, ginger or garlic. But all variations use soy sauce. Presented here is my version using soy sauce and green shiso leaves. You can of course play with the ingredients. I love to prepare it in advance and serve it completely cold in the summer, but you can eat it hot as well.
If you have small Japanese eggplants or Chinese long eggplants, you can use the entire vegetable with the skin on. However, please peel the skin if using bigger American eggplants because their skin is much harder. When choosing your eggplants, it’s a good idea to pick heavier ones because they’re fresh and include more water. Eggplants with pointy stems, a darker color and thicker bodies are also recommended.
This is a flavorful, take-you-away-from-it-all summertime appetizer. It’s very juicy yet light, so I can eat an entire bowl in one sitting. I hope you enjoy this refreshing dish.
Mari’s recipe for steamed eggplant marinated in sause
Ingredients: (4 servings)
Eggplants, about 500 grams
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
5 green shiso leaves, cut into strips
½ tsp doubanjiang chili paste (optional, adds spiciness)
1. Cut eggplants into thin rectangles 5 centimeters long. Soak in water for 10 minutes.
2. Steam eggplants until they reach desired texture (for melted texture, steam for about 20-30 minutes.)
3. Mix all seasonings except green shiso leaves in container. Marinate the still-hot eggplants in the sauce and cool to room temperature.