Sweet and spicy japanese aubergine

Sweet and spicy Japanese aubergine

I hit the kitchen properly last night for the frst time in about ten days and banged pans about with wild abandon for a couple of hours. After all of which I ended up with an almost radioactively bright moong dhal and a gentle, ok – bland, leek and potato soup. Disaster.

As a result I felt a certain degree of performance anxiety tonight. The fridge contained just three long slender aubergines and a scraping of miso. Add that to some staples (onion, chilli, garlic) and my stock of sauces and an idea germinated. A sweet spicy aubergine hotpot/stirfry/curry type thing.

I know I’ve talked about how much I love, really really love, aubergines. They are the King and Queen of vegetables. Smooth and decadent, they go perfectly with anything that needs to be a bit sloppy, a bit smooth, a bit sexy.

I’ve used them for antipasti, dips, curries, purees, moussaka, casseroles, stir fries, stews. I’ve had them with pork, lamb, beef, fish, game, beans, peas and lentils. But I’ve yet to use them with Japanese flavours. And I have no idea why because they’re so well matched.

The marriage of umami rich miso along and brewed soy sauce with silky empurpled aubergine is a well nigh perfect one. It’s very rich, with a deep dark sweetness. There’s a tart edge provided by the vinegar and an underlying, but not overwhelming chilli heat. You could probably add some minced pork or tofu as well.

This is ideal served on a lightly steaming pile of rice: sticky, jasmine or basmati. And it would benefit from a side of fresh steamed vegetables.

The aubergine
Feeds four with rice

I got the sauce mix idea from Everyday Harumi, added some miso because I really wanted that deep umami flavour, and did the rest off the cuff.

Preparing the aubergines this way leaves them so silky smooth and tender you could drink them through a straw. The contrast with the deeply sweet-savoury sauce is delectable with the chilli heat providing a balance to the decadent textures and flavours.

2 medium or 3 long thin aubergines
Oil for shallow frying – about 200-300ml
1 clove garlic
1 thumb joint size lump of ginger
1 birds eye chilli
1 small onion
80ml Japanese soy sauce
80ml mirin
60ml rice vinegar
2.5 tblsp caster sugar
1-2 tblsp miso

Slice the aubergines into bite sized chunks. Heat the oil until it is very hot. Shallow fry the aubergines in batches until they go soft and brown. This will take a couple of minutes per side. Drain the batches of aubergine on kitchen towel as you finish cooking them.

Combine the soy, mirin, vinegar and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Finely slice the onion and ginger. De-seed and chop the chilli, crush the clove of garlic. Stir fry the onion until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and stir for another minute.

Pour in the soy mix and bring to a simmer. Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Add the aubergines and stir until they are well coated.

Keep the heat low and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes. Serve in smallish amounts over rice.

28 Responses to “Sweet and spicy japanese aubergine”

  1. The Grubworm

    @shayma – thanks! With aubergine, it’s easy to make something good – it’s just such a damn good ingredient!

    @Su-Lin – it is dangerously moorish – if it weren’t for the richness (and the fact it’s my lunch today as well) I probably could’ve scoffed the lot too!

  2. The Grubworm

    @Niamh – i haven’t, but i have just looked up the recipe and it looks fantastic. Thanks for the pointer.

  3. Maninas

    Yum! i’d love some now!

    i take it you know fish-fragrant aubergine, don’t you? :) I had some in bar shu sunday before last. it was delish! :D

  4. The Grubworm

    @Maninas – I do, except in my first Chinese cook book it was called fish-flavoured aubergine which put me off for ages ;-)

    Lucky you re Bar Shu, I’ve been wanting to go there for ages – what else did you have?

  5. Kavey

    I adore aubergines, they are, as you say the king AND queen of vegetables!
    This looks superb!

  6. The Grubworm

    Thanks Kavey! It was just about as good cold today for lunch as it was for dinner last night. Not quite as sexily slithery though.

  7. The London Foodie

    This is a superb recipe with two of my favourite ingredients = aubergines and miso! Bookmarking it right now. When I want to make a quick side dish to an informal Japanese meal I top some white miso on half an aubergine, sprinkle grated mozzarella on top and bake them for 30 minutes. It couldn’t be easier and it is very good too.

  8. The Grubworm

    @The London Foodie – Ooooh, miso and mozzarella – that’s something i would never thought of combining. And i have a lovely aubergine just sitting there in the fridge… Do you think it would work with darker miso and parmesan?

  9. Maninas

    fire exploded kidneys, dan dan noodles, a cold chicken dish in sesame sauce (can’t remember the name, might have been bang bang chicken)… but the aubergines were our favourites!

  10. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    I’m having a bit of an aubergine moment right now, this sounds fantastic. I would love to try it next time I get some of my purple friends in.

  11. Mathilde's Cuisine

    Oh my god, this recipe looks absolutely amazing! Such a pity you couldn’t make it for the aubergine fest, i’m sure Mimi would have loved it! I have three aubergines waiting to be cooked in the fridge and I think I know which recipe i’m going to use!

  12. The Grubworm

    @Maninas – wow – that sounds fab. I’ve spotted the fire exploded kidneys in Fuchsia Dunlop’s book and wanted to try them for ages.

    @Sarah – i’d be very interested in hearing how it comes out if you do use it. I always try to keep a purple friend or two in the fridge drawer, living in Turkish dominated area means that there are always plenty about.

    @Mathilde – thanks! It is a pity for I love aubergine with a passion… Next time though (and if MiMi doesn’t like ‘em I’ll eat every single dish myself)!

  13. Maninas

    the fire exploded kidneys were tasty, esp when warm, but when they cooled down, they had a strong offaly taste, which may not be to everyone’s liking.

    btw, have you read fuchsia’s ‘shark’s fin…’? if not, do read it. it’s an excellent read. she talks about the kidneys there, which made us try it.

  14. The Grubworm

    I haven’t – only her two cook books – i think I must remedy that soon though.

  15. Lizzie

    I bloody love aubergines – this sounds delicious, and I shall be making it soon.

  16. The Grubworm

    @Lizzie Yes! Bring on the aubergine love. I hope it turns out good for you.

  17. The London Foodie

    Different type of miso will vary in salt levels just make sure the brown miso is not too salty, or if it is, add less of it mixed with a little sugar.

  18. The Grubworm

    @The London Foodie – I didn’t know that about the salt, thanks!

    @Lindsay – thanks! It be great to hear how you get on with it if you do make it.

  19. Helen

    Ooh this looks a bit good then! I’m another aubergine addict. It won’t be long before I’m guzzling this down.

  20. The Grubworm

    @Helen – thanks! Welcome to the absolutely unrepentant aubergine addicts club ;-)

  21. Harmodius

    This was absolutely delicious! The eggplant was not quite as tender as I had hoped, but I think it was because I was being to careful with frying and simmering the eggplant. Still, it was very smooth and flavorful and absolutely delicious. Instead of a birds eye chili, I used a green jalepino and it worked just fine. I also put granulated sugar in a food processor and that worked instead of caster sugar. I wasnt able to find miso and it turned out great, but it would be better with that added flavor and thicker consitency. I used sweet basil and parsley as a garnish which was delicious. My mom also suggested putting sauted mushrooms and ground cashews in it, which I think i will do next time. I’m also going to double the recipie next time because this just left me wanting more!

  22. The Grubworm

    Harmodius – glad you cooked it and glad you liked it. With the eggplant, the secret is to slather it on what looks like way too much oil, it;s the only way to get that silky smooth texture. Unhealthy, but so very very tasty!

    Sweet basil garnish would be ace with this, i intend to try it out next time with the parsley, which would, i imagine, cut through the oilyness. Good idea re the cashews as well.

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