I did have salt-pickled aubergine in Japan several times, but I have never prepared it and, most of all, I have never suspected that salting it for ten minutes only would result in anything edible, not to mention such a surprisingly delicious thing. Briefly salted, raw aubergine retains some of its crunchiness, stays pleasantly fresh and possibly unrecognisable to those who have never tasted it salt-pickled. Shiso (perilla) leaves and raw ginger add a bold mixture of flavours, creating the most unusual aubergine dish I have ever tasted.
Salt-pickling is only one of the many Japanese pickling methods and this dish is an excellent example of the quickest, “instant” salt-pickling, typical of Japanese cuisine. I found this fantastic recipe on Youtube in an episode of the “3 minute cooking” (3 分 クッキング), an apparently very popular short Japanese tv program I have just discovered and about which you will probably read more here very soon because I’ve found lots of other promising recipes. I have slightly changed the ingredients’ ratio and used a Western, not Asian aubergine, so if you speak Japanese, you check the original なすの浅漬けrecipe here (no English subtitles).
TIPS: If you don’t have myoga, which visually ressembles slightly a shallot (but tastes completely different), simply skip it. Some people replace it with young ginger, but I think here, since ginger is one of the ingredients, it’s better to skip it (I had some frozen myoga, so I used it for the first time, but I skipped it for the dish I photographed). Here is what myoga looks like:
If you can find the small Asian aubergine, it will certainly taste better, but I prepared this dish already twice with normal Western variety and it was delicious too.
If you cannot find shiso, experiment with other boldly flavoured fresh herbs. There is no similarly tasting substitute for shiso, but I’m sure some other strongly scented leaves can make this “salad” taste great.
Do not be tempted to prepare this dish in advance. The taste gets worse and, most of all, the shiso leaves become really awful.
Preparation: about 15-20 minutes
Ingredients (serves three-four as a side dish):
1 small Western aubergine/eggplant (or two small Asian ones)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon finely shredded ginger
4 – 5 myoga buds, finely shredded
5 big shiso leaves, finely sliced
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or more if you use low-sodium version)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Soak the shredded ginger and shiso in cold water.
Cut the Western aubergine in four lengthwise and then into thin slices.
If you use the Asian variety, cut it in two lengthwise and then cut into thin diagonal slices.
Place the aubergine slices in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and mix delicately with your hands.
Put aside for ten minutes.
Squash the aubergine slices in your hands to remove the brownish liquid they will release.
Discard the liquid and pace the squashed slices into another bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients, give the salad a stir and serve immediately.