Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that is vibrant in color and size, whose origins date back to India. Eggplant is also right at home in Mediterranean cuisine, but today we are taking our techniques to Japan.
On my first trip abroad, I traveled to India and Nepal where I fell in love with a dish called Baingan Bharta, which is a smokey flavored dish made from grilled minced eggplant. It is as delicious and flavorful as it sounds, and afterwards I couldn't wait to expand my eggplant recipe repertoire. I bought an array of cookbooks and explored recipes ranging from Mollie Katzen's stuffed eggplant, to Madhur Jaffrey's "The Best Eggplant Ever". Yotom Ottolenghi inspires with his delicious eggplant recipes, as does chef Musa Dagdeviren in Turkey.
Once I discovered Japanese eggplant Agedashi, however, I knew it was time for a recipe collaboration — hence today’s dish. I don't often deep fry, but it's worth it to create this wonderful dish. Plus, Japanese-style frying is often lighter and ‘healthier’ than your typical fry job. Donburi can be served as an appetizer, or easily adapted into a main course by adding rice and other vegetables to create a Donburi bowl.
Make the dashi – In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the grape seed oil. Add the shallot, carrot and garlic and sauté until tender. Add the sake, tamari, mirin, shiitake mushrooms, kombu and vegetable broth and bring to a boil . Remove from the heat, cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Strain through a wire mesh strainer and return to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Return to the stove and keep the broth warm at a low simmer.
Make the eggplant – In a deep heavy bottom pan, heat the oil to 400˚
Working in batches, fry the eggplant, stirring constantly until the eggplant is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Using a mesh spider, remove the eggplant from the hot oil and place on paper towels to drain excess oil.
To serve – Divide the eggplant between serving bowls. Pour the warm broth over the eggplant. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve with chopsticks.
- 1 tbsp grape seed oil
- 1 large shallot, peeled, about 1 cup
- 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into chunks
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup sake
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- one 2” x 1” piece of kombu
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 3-4 Japanese eggplant, cut in half lengthwise, then into 2″ pieces
- 3 cups of canola oil
- chopped scallions