Aubergine with Ponzu, Miso and Sesame Sauce

This is another lovely recipe I have found on Nami’s extraordinary blog (Just One Cookbook) and another one which confirms my fondness of the aubergine. If, like me a couple of years ago, you associate the aubergine with fat-soaked tasteless slices, you should try this simple and healthy dish, which makes me regret the aubergine season is almost over. I think it’s an excellent introduction to the sophisticated and simple way the Japanese cook their vegetables, bringing the best out of their subtle taste.

I hope Nami will not be angry to learn I have slightly changed her recipe, skipping konbucha/kombucha (昆布茶, “seaweed tea”), one of the sauce ingredients I kept on forgetting to buy. According to Nami its presence guaranteed umami taste, so for me miso (fermented soy bean paste), as the quintessence of umami, was the obvious substitute to experiment with. The experiment was so successful that now, having tried both versions I couldn’t say which one I prefer. Both create a perfect, complex flavours’ combination of flavours and both are ideal with the grilled aubergine. The sauce with konbucha is lighter and more delicate, while the one with miso is creamier and has a stronger taste. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t advice any substitute for ponzu (ポン酢), a mixture of soy sauce and yuzu juice. I tried once to combine soy sauce with lemon, then with lime juice, but the results were not satisfactory.)

After much hesitation I have decided to post the miso version in case some of you don’t have konbucha (it’s a bit more difficult to get than miso), but I strongly encourage you to follow Nami’s original recipe and try both of them.

I have accidentally discovered this grilled aubergine is ideal served with Garlic Miso Chicken Breast Skewers, also adapted from Nami’s Garlic Miso Chicken Wings recipe). Nami, I am so grateful for the sophisticated simplicity and delight your Japanese meals bring to my table!

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1 medium eggplant, in 1/2 cm thick slices

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 flat tablespoons chopped chives or green onions

3 tablespoons chopped shiso leaves

Sauce:

2 tablespoons ponzu

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon miso (or 1/4 teaspoon konbucha, click here to see the details on Nami’s blog)

Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with sesame oil and grill them or pan-fry them on both sides. (Or heat some oil in the pan instead of brushing the slices).

In the meantime combine the ingredients of the sauce (I close them in a small container with a lid and shake like a cocktail; it helps to dissolve the cold miso).

Arrange the aubergine on a plate, sprinkle with chives and shiso and pour the sauce.

Serve warm or cold (I prefer it warm).