Monday, January 24, 2011

Japanese Country-Style Eggplant: Nasu no Inaka Ni



Stewed eggplant doesn't sound exciting to you? Think that eggplant is only for vegetarians? Or just plain have no idea what to do with eggplant other than Eggplant Parmesan? Well, this delightful and simple Japanese eggplant dish will change your mind—and your palate-about eggplant. No one I have ever served this to has ever said anything but, “Delicious” or “Amazing” or “How on earth did you make this? I love it!” Asian eggplants are more tender and delicately flavored than the standard variety—but you can use either kind with excellent results. Katsuo-bushi—dried bonito flakes—are a common condiment in Japanese cooking. They come in packages of five packets. Next time you are at an Asian grocers, pick up a package. You can use katsuo-bushi in miso soup, and, together with grated ginger root and soy sauce, as a lovely topping for cold tofu (this is way yummier than it sounds).

Ingredients
· 8 Japanese eggplants (or one large eggplant)
· 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
· 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes, to taste
· 1 packet dried bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi, found in Asian grocery stores)
· 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
· 3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine, or substitute vermouth with added sugar to taste)
· 1 cup water

Directions
1. Score Asian eggplants lengthwise every half inch. (If using regular eggplant, cut off ends and then cut remainder into 1" cubes, but do no peel.).
2. Put all ingredients in a sturdy pot and stir to coat.
3. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that eggplant cooks thoroughly (until it becomes tender).
4. Serve hot or cold.