Bei Nasu Niku Miso Dengaku
Recipe by Kanako Koizumi (www.kozmokitchen.com)
Serves 4 (one half eggplant serves 2) Prep time 10 minutes Cook Time 25 minutes
The Japanese word “shun” describes the time at which a food is in prime season and at the peak of its flavor. Japanese take great pride in the concept of shun and often refer to a food not just by its name, but by its optimal season. For example, eggplant is a wonderful ingredient for everyday recipes and is available all year round, but when it comes to its shun, we refer to it as “Aki Nasu” (autumn eggplant), indicating that fall is the best time to enjoy it. “Autumn” is taken from the old Japanese calendar, which is usually a month behind the Western calendar. So, the actual shun for eggplant is in late August to early October.
Here is a great dish called “Nasu Niku Miso Dengaku”. It’s a grilled eggplant with a topping of sweetened miso and ground meat. It typically calls for a large eggplant variety called “Bei Nasu”, in which ‘bei’ means American. I first had this dish decades ago at an old Japanese pub in Tokyo. The flavor was so amazing that it instantly became my all-time favorite nasu recipe. The pub no longer exists, but I wanted to replicate the flavor and presentation that still lives vividly in my heart. It’s a perfect main dish to go with rice, or to enjoy with sips of sake in a family style on a beautiful autumn evening!
- 1 bei nasu (globe or American eggplant), stem left on, calyx trimmed, and cut in half lengthwise. If you can’t find bei nasu, you can use 2 Japanese or Chinese eggplants.
- 2 tbsp. high-heat cooking oil such as rice bran or canola
For niku miso topping:
- 5 tbsp. red miso
- 4 tbsp. sake
- 4 tbsp. mirin
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 4-5 oz. ground chicken
- 2 tbsp. green onion, finely minced
- Prepare the niku miso: combine miso, sake, mirin, and sugar in a small bowl, whisking until smooth. Heat sesame oil in a pan over high heat. Add chicken and sauté until it’s no longer pink, 2-3 minutes. Add the miso sauce and stir well, then continue cooking for about 5 minutes until the liquid is thickened and almost gone. Turn off heat and add green onion. Mix well and set aside.
- Make several shallow cross-hatched cuts (no deeper than an inch) on the flat surface of the eggplant. Place the eggplant in a large bowl of water, cut side down, and soak for 15 to 30 minutes to remove aku (bitter taste). Pat the eggplant dry thoroughly; any water remaining on its surface can cause splattering as it cooks.
- Heat the cooking oil in a 12-inch pan over medium heat. Place the two eggplant halves in the pan, cut side down. Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes. Turn over the eggplant, cover again and cook for another 7 minutes, until cooked through and soft.
- Transfer the cooked eggplant to a cookie sheet, flat side up. Carefully spread half of the niku miso on each half. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is bubbling.
- Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top and provide spoons to scoop up the eggplant. Enjoy!
Kanako, a native of Akita, Japan, is a chef, author and instructor focused on authentic Japanese home cooking. She will be teaching Bento and Izakaya classes in June at Tom Douglas’ Hot Stove Society and ChefShop in Seattle. Chef Kanako also offers in-home private cooking classes for groups up to 12. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017 October – Kanako’s cooking school information
PCC Cooks fall classes start in October at various PCC locations. Kanako will offer classes on Izakaya food with sake tasting. The menu includes niku jaga (braised pork belly and vegetables), salmon nanban, kinoko shiraae (mushroom salad with creamy tofu dressing), yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls), and dashimaki tamago (dashi flavored rolled omelet). Register at https://m.pccmarkets.com/pcccooks/classes/detail.php?id=2316. Check https://www.facebook.com/kozmoshokudo/ for future updates.