Refresh, sweet, addicted, vegan, and gluten free are all that can say about this amazing Japanese Miso Eggplant.
The first time I got a chance to try this Japanese miso eggplant dish was probably 7-8 years ago. And to be honest, my jaw was dropping and I kept drooling over this simple dish.
All my life up to that point, the only version I experienced with eggplant was the Viet style with scallion oil. Or the Chinese version in which it was sautéed with minced pork and seasoned with a lot of chilies.
Most of the time eggplant is served as an casual dish in Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant. Who can ever imagine that one day it becomes a star in so many famous Japanese restaurants around the world.
Since I love it so much, I also did bring it on the menu of the latest restaurant I worked at. And needless to say, it was one of the best sellers.
What is miso?
Miso is a popular ingredient used in Japanese cuisine. It is a thick paste made by salting and fermenting soybeans and rice/barley.
Because miso is a soybean-based ingredient, it remains one of the choices for vegetarian/vegan cooking.
There are two types of miso are commonly used in the States: white miso (shiro miso) and red miso.
White miso is creamy and contains a high percentage of rice. It has a mild and sweet flavor. I also use white miso in this recipe.
You can find white miso in most of Asian markets. But if you have a hard time looking for it, well you know Amazon literally has everything including this organic white (shiro) miso I'm using.
Red miso contains higher percentage of soybeans, and is fermented longer than white miso. That makes it have stronger and saltier flavor.
Types of eggplant
There are two types of eggplant that commonly see in grocery store: Asian and western ones.
Asian eggplants are either round or long and thin. Their skin colors ranging from light purple to deep purple, sometimes cloudy white.
Western eggplants are more popular in the States and have a giant pear shape. They have a very shiny skin with color ranging from deep purple to purple-black.
Asian eggplants are softer than their western cousins.
How to cook eggplant properly?
In my previous vegan eggplant recipe, I have mentioned that eggplant should be salted before cooking process. Why?
Because they are filled and surrounded by many tiny air pockets.
If the eggplant has not been salted, the oil tend to fill in those pockets quickly and make it soggy.
If eggplant has been salted, the salt would draw the water out of those cells so those air pockets will be collapsed. Which makes the oil impossible to seep into those tiny pockets.
As a result eggplant does not become soggy during cooking process.
How to serve Japanese miso eggplant?
This miso eggplant is best to serve hot or warm. Don't let it sit at room temperature for too long as it'll become soggy and stale overtime.
If you're looking for a small starter dish for your restaurant menu, look no further.
It makes a great appetizer or a side dish. All you need is to add variety of toppings to make it become such contemporary item.
Japanese Miso Eggplant
- Rimmed baking pan lined with oil absorbed paper
- 2 Asian eggplants peeled, cut into 2x5 sticks
- 2 sprig green onion chopped, for garnish
- vegetable oil as needed
- 5 oz white miso (shiro miso) paste
- 2 oz sugar
- 1.5 c mirin see notes
- 1 c water
Making miso sauce
- In a small sauce pan, combine all ingredients then bring to boil. Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes or until it reduced by half.
- Turn off the heat. The mixture still has a liquidy-texture.
- Lightly salt eggplant sticks.
- Fill a big pot with enough vegetable oil for frying. Bring oil to 350F-375F.
- Work in small batch and quickly blanch eggplants in hot oil. Each batch should be around 3-4 minutes. Eggplants should have a very light golden bright color. Don't let them turn too dark.
- Take blanched eggplants out and lay on rimmed baking pan already lined with oil absorbed paper.
Making miso eggplants
- In a medium sauteed pan, add already fried eggplants (about 6-7 sticks) and cook on medium heat. If the heat is set too high, when miso sauce is added, it will splash everywhere and can make the eggplants burn.
- Carefully stir eggplants then add 2 tbsp of miso sauce at a time. Add only enough sauce to coat the eggplants completely.
- Serve immediately and garnish with green onions. Enjoy!