I used to hate eggplant. As a child, the slimy texture made me want to squeal, and not with joy. I just couldn’t wrap my head around why people would eat eggplant and like it. Something must have happened from then to now, because now I’d say I’m a eggplant lover. I guess it could have been that I had badly cooked eggplant as a child, but more likely, I just grew out of my weird childhood finickiness.
When cooked right, eggplant has a melty dreamy texture that I just can’t get enough of. Add to that a sweet miso caramelized top and you have the perfect food for scooping up and eating with plain white rice.
I first discovered nasu dengaku or miso glazed eggplant at a friendly neighbourhood sushi joint. Everyone told me I had to get the eggplant: two unassuming halves of an Japanese eggplant nestled in tinfoil. Upon closer inspection, the eggplant was scored and covered in a sticky sauce that had been broiled to the point of caramelization. The presentation was underwhelming, but the taste was definitely mind blowing.
If you can imagine a vegetable based, salty-sweet creme brulee, this is it. The salty-sweet sticky topping isn’t as crackly as a cream brulee, but underneath the miso-glaze, the eggplant is creamy and delicious.
Nasu Dengaku/Miso Glazed Eggplant Recipe adapted from fatfreevegan.com
1 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons shiro miso
3 tablespoons sugar
2 Japanese eggplants, cut in half lengthwise*
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
sliced green onions, for garnish
Place the mirin and sake in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for about 2 minutes to allow some of the alcohol to cook off. Then add the miso and stir until smooth. Stir in the sugar, reduce the heat to very low, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, while you broil the eggplants:
Brush the cut sides of the eggplants with the sesame oil. Put the eggplants cut-side down on a baking sheet and place under the broiler of your oven for about 3 minutes, checking often to make sure that they do not burn. Turn them over, and cook for another 3 minutes or until the tops are a light to medium brown. Do not burn! (If your eggplant still isn’t tender all the way through, turn the broil function to bake at 375˚ for a few more minutes; then proceed with the recipe.)
When the eggplants are tender, top each one with the miso sauce and put them back under the broiler until the sauce bubbles up–this should take less than a minute, so watch them closely. Enjoy hot, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and green onions.
* I used a regular eggplant, but the thinness of Japanese eggplants work better with this dish because they roast faster. Also, if you score the eggplants, they’ll cook faster and the sauce will flavour even more of the eggplant.