I grew up barely knowing the taste of aubergine. Later I started to associate it with fried, extremely oily, mushy stuff I disliked. When I discovered moussaka I realised the aubergine can actually be a delicious and precious ingredient, but it’s the Japanese cuisine that has awakened my love for this beautiful vegetable. I was – and still am – amazed at the number of aubergine recipes and different techniques every Japanese cookery source offers. It is fried, grilled, simmered, pickled and even dried… I still keep on stumbling upon unexpected Japanese ways to serve it, such as this super light salad, perfect for last warm weeks of this year.
I have found this recipe on Youtube, while practicing my culinary Japanese comprehension. It is an episode of a very famous tv program called 3-Minute Cooking, which I like a lot. Obviously, it is prepared with the smaller, Japanese aubergine variety which also has a thinner skin, but I have successfully replaced it with Western variety. This salad is very light, but filling at the same time and the zesty kick from yuzu koshou pairs perfectly with the delicate aubergine flavours. (As usually, I have slightly changed the process and the ingredients’ ratio, so if you speak Japanese, check the original recipe, the second one in this video.)
TIPS: Yuzu koshou (one of the ingredients) is a Japanese citrus called “yuzu” and chilli paste. It’s available in Japanese groceries but if you don’t have it, don’t panic: you can make a Western substitution with lime zest, which I called Raimu koshou (check my recipe here). Moreover, in this recipe I think you can replace it with some grated lime zest mixed with green chilli.
The best smoky taste is obtained when the aubergine is roasted over flame, but you can do it on any grill or, if you don’t have one (like me), grill it under the oven broiler, turning once as soon as it’s scorched at the top.
Preparation: about 15 minutes + the time necessary for the aubergine’s cooling
Ingredients (serves two as a big starter or a small dish):
2 small Western aubergines (or two normal Asian ones)
1 chicken breast, steamed, baked, fried or grilled (you can use leftover roast chicken meat), shredded with hands
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon yuzu koshou or lime koshou or see the TIPS above
1 tablespoon oil (I have used toasted sesame oil, but you can use any oil you like)
1 teaspoon honey, syrup or sugar
Make a round shallow incision under the stems of each aubergine (it’s a magical trick that will make peeling much easier, so make sure you don’t cut the stems off while cutting the skin) and roast it over the flame, over the grill or under an oven broiler until it’s scorched.
Put into a closed/lidded container or plastic bag (I don’t think plastic bags are a very healthy option because they might even melt under the aubergine’s heat…).
When the aubergine cools down, peel the skin and cut the flesh into big chunks.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a big bowl (make sure the sugar is dissolved, if using it).
Add the aubergine chunks and the chicken pieces and stir well. Adjust the flavours and serve. (I have served it with some grated lime zest and found it a great sesaoning).