Japanese miso glazed aubergines with toasted sesame seeds

This recipe for sticky miso glazed aubergines, or eggplants as they call them over the pond, is one I’ve been wanting to recreate ever since I ate it at a sushi restaurant nearby.

There is a little place in Raynes Park called Hashi that looks very unassuming from the outside; somewhere I might usually walk past without giving a second look. I think it was recommended to my parents a few years ago who booked it for a birthday meal and it turned out to be really nice, a hidden gem some may say! We ate really good sushi, which was fresh and very authentic (I say this though I have never actually been to Japan so really I’m just guessing). The one dish that stuck with me though was the aubergine.

It came to our table in a little baking dish, and to tell you the truth, next to the colourful sashimi and the delicately hand carved tomato rose decorations, it didn’t look that special. No one actually knew what it was, just a mound of brown stuff lurking on the table that we had forgotten we’d ordered. It came with a teeny tiny fork that I picked up and used to scoop some of the flesh out. It was delicious. Salty, sweet, sticky and soft and with that amazing umami taste that you only get from certain foods. It was then passed around the table, one of those things you want everyone to try so they can experience it too (though I would have possibly been happier keeping it to myself).

I never really think of aubergine as being a classically Japanese vegetable, though I have come to realize that there is a specific type of Japanese aubergine, which is longer and thinner than the ones we know. After a bit of Googling to get the jist of how I would begin to make this at home, I found that most recipes called for Japanese aubergines. I never managed to find them in the supermarkets so if you’re desperate to try them I’d suggest going to a market or a specialty Asian shop. I have used regular aubergines and they turned out pretty well. Sake can also be hard to get your hands on so take a tip from the one and only Diana Henry who suggests replacing it with dry sherry in her version of this dish.

You can buy the miso from health food stores and some Waitrose shops and I love the brand Clearspring for Japanese ingredients, as they’re all natural. It is important to use both white and brown miso here, however, as the white provides sweetness and the brown is the saltier of the two.

Japanese miso glazed aubergines with toasted sesame seeds

SERVES

2-4 as a side dish

INGREDIENTS

2 large aubergines
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil + more for brushing
3 tbsp. white miso
1 tbsp. brown miso
3 tbsp. mirin
2 tbsp. coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp. sake (sherry also works)

To serve:

3 tsp. white sesame seeds
Spring onions, sliced
Chilli flakes (optional)

METHOD

Pre heat the oven to 180oC (fan oven).

Cut the aubergines in half, length ways and the use a sharp knife to score a criss-cross pattern in the flesh, being careful to not cut through the skin.

Place the aubergines flesh side up on a baking tray and brush with toasted sesame oil.

Put them in the oven for 40 minutes.

While they are in the oven, make the glaze.

Heat one tablespoon of toasted sesame oil in a pan over a medium-low heat. Add the white and brown miso, the mirin, the sake and the sugar and stir everything until it’s all combined. Set aside.

In a dry pan, toast the sesame seeds over a medium heat until golden and fragrant (about 4- minutes). Set aside.

When the aubergines are ready, take them out of the oven and spoon over the glaze on to all four pieces. Use a spoon to spread it out evenly.

Turn the oven onto the grill setting and grill them for 4-5 minutes. They should be bubbling slightly and look sticky and moist.

Take them out of the oven, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and scatter over some spring onions and a few chilli flakes if you like.

Serve hot.

This made a lovely side dish with our sushi meal so serve it with other Japanese style foods; home made sushi (if you have the time/ patience), sticky rice, edamame and soy glazed salmon are a few ideas to get you started.

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