Today’s recipe in Recipes do Marcão, World Cup 2022 edition, is from Japan. Japan that plays better and better and has a cuisine that is respected by absolutely everyone.
Respected and feared. The Japanese way of cooking and eating is full of rules and rituals. Getting it wrong is easy when the recipe calls for an extensive protocol.
Fortunately, Japanese food is a gigantic universe that goes far, far beyond imperial banquets, sushi, ramen and sukiyaki. There are wonderfully simple dishes such as eggplant miso.
Nasu dengaku is the name of the food in Japanese. It’s just a lightly fried eggplant, then seasoned with miso and roasted. Few ingredients, almost no hassle, guaranteed results — if you have a nice eggplant and follow the recipe.
Cool eggplant is a new eggplant. I prefer small ones—but it’s no use being a young eggplant that’s spent weeks flying around in the bag. The Japanese variety has few seeds and thin skin. A sign of “youth” is tight, glowing skin.
The other crucial ingredient is miso, which many people only know from the Japanese all-you-can-eat soup — miso.
Miso, a soy and rice paste, is fermented with fungi called koji, which give it an enormous complexity of aromas. Japan, China and Korea have as many varieties of miso as France has cheese. If you can get a special, great—if not, the regular kind does the job well.
Most Brazilian miso is vegan, which results in an eggplant that is also vegan. But there are Japanese brands that have fish or shrimp among the components. Read the back label.
As for the procedure, you cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and cut the flesh in a checkerboard pattern of shallow knife scratches, just enough for the seasonings to penetrate.
Then, salt the inner part of the eggplant and let it rest for at least two hours. This is important both for it to lose excess water and to discard, at the end of the process, bitter compounds that come out with this water.
Sodium content is something to pay attention to in the nasu dengaku recipe. Miso is something very salty, and eggplant absorbs the salt applied to make it shed water.
In addition to going easy on the salting, I have two pieces of advice for mitigating the sodium pump. The first is to prepare gohan, Japanese rice without any seasoning, to eat together.
The other is to put some beers to freeze. Nasu dengaku goes great as a bar snack. Kampai!
Yield: 2 servings
2 small eggplants (or 1 large)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of oil
1 tablespoon of miso
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet culinary sake) or 1 tablespoon dry sake and 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 tablespoon chopped chives or chives
1 teaspoon of sesame
- Cut the eggplant(s) in half lengthwise. Then, perforate the pulp with shallow cuts in a checkerboard pattern. Spread the salt evenly over the pulp and let it sit for two hours.
- After 90 minutes, heat the oven to maximum temperature.
- Half an hour later, discard the water that the eggplants have released and dry them with a paper towel. Heat the oil over low heat in a nonstick skillet.
- Fry the eggplant, flesh side down, for 5 minutes. Flip and fry the shell side for 3 minutes.
- Dissolve the miso in the mirin and apply it to the eggplant flesh. Bake for 15 minutes or until the miso is lightly golden.
- Remove from the oven and garnish with ginger, chives (or nirá) and sesame. Eat the eggplant warm or at room temperature. Store for up to a week in the refrigerator.
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