Eggplant with Miso Sauce (Nasu no Dengaku)

This is one of my all-time favorite Japanese dishes. Succulent eggplant, lightly fried to soft perfection, with salty/sweet miso sauce dripping down the sides.

The dengaku sauce keeps for a week or two in the fridge and works well on meat, veggies and tofu.

Eggplant Prep
With a few tricks, eggplant is really easy to tame. The Japanese soak cut eggplant in salted water (and pat dry before use) to remove the bitterness. This is my preferred method as it doesn't leave the vegetable too salty and is easy.

Using the correct variety of eggplant is also important. The bulbous eggplant sold in normal grocery stores has a different texture and taste than Japanese (or Chinese) eggplant. The Japanese eggplant is long and skinny, like a cucumber. This reduce the amount of seedy flesh inside (compared to the bulbous American variety) and I think it tastes better.

1. Slice the eggplant into 1.5 to 2 inch lengths. If the width of your eggplant is larger than 2 inches, you could cut it in half or quarters to make it mouth-sized.
2. Carefully slice multiple incisions in the skin of the eggplant. This allows the flavor to enter the cut 'fins' and reduces chewey-eggplant-skin syndrome.
3. Stick the pieces in salted water (1 tea to 1-2 C water ?) and let sit for at least 5 minutes.
4.Pat dry before using

Miso Sauce (Dengaku)
Combine in a small saucepan, over LOW heat (don't simmer miso, it breaks down the healthy stuff or so I've heard):

1 TB dark miso paste ("hatcho" miso is named for the locale it originated, it is a dark purple color and has an intense flavor. Dark miso is imperative for the flavor of this sauce)
2 TB light miso paste
2 TB mirin
("sweet cooking wine", or just buy the bottle labeled "mirin" at WinCo)
1/4 sake
1.5 TB sugar
(white granulated)

Stir over low heat until the miso melts into a consistent sauce. Add 1 tea sesame oil and stir until combined. You can serve the sauce warm over fried eggplant, fresh tofu, fish or even steak.

Fried Eggplant with Miso Sauce
Once you have the sauce ready, start heating about an inch of oil in a small pan.
Once heated, put a few eggplant slices in the hot oil and fry until starting to brown. Blot with paper towels and continue until all pieces are cooked.

Plate with a drizzle of miso sauce and serve.

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