This Japanese treatment for eggplants turns the spongy fruit — I thought it was a vegetable — into creamy morsels that lend itself well to the simplest of seasonings. Serving as its own cooking vessel, the purple berries are grilled until charred while steaming from the inside. The whole eggplants will expand and sputter as it releases steam through its pricked skin. It’s done just as it collapses into a wrinkled mass looking black as charcoal on the outside but smooth as custard on the inside.
Slice the peeled eggplants so that it resembles sashimi or eel from 10 feet away to alleviate boredom and ensue hilarity. Depending on who’s around, reactions can range from delight to disgust, culminating in either disappointment or sighs of relief once revealed that it’s just frickin’ eggplant. I know I’d think twice about having raw fish from someone’s apartment kitchen.
recipe adapted from Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art
Grilled Japanese Eggplants
serves 2 as a side dish
2 – 3 whole Japanese eggplants (or any varietal), about 1 pound
juice of freshly grated ginger or lemon wedges
dried bonito flakes /katsuo-bushi (optional)
Prepare a grill or preheat a broiler. Brush the eggplants with vegetable oil and prick the skin with a fork or skewer to allow steam to escape. Prepare a large bowl filled with cold water.
Grill or broil the eggplants for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning frequently until the eggplants are charred and slightly wrinkled.
Remove from the grill and plunge in the bowl of cold water briefly. Peel the eggplants and discard the skin.
Cut the eggplants into bite-sized pieces.
Serve with soy sauce with either the juice of freshly grated ginger or lemon wedges. Garnish with dried bonito flakes if desired.