I must have seen this dish dozens or maybe hundreds of times in the past years but never tried making it. I haven’t had any occasion to taste it during my trips to Japan either, so I had no idea what to expect from it. I worried about the slight sweetness of the miso glaze, but it was just perfect to enhance the delicate slightly smokey flavours and soft texture of the aubergine. The process was surprisingly quick, easy and feasible even with my simple oven grill, so I think I have just found a new delicious summer vegetable side-dish.
I have learnt from my precious Japanese cuisine source (Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji) that the word dengaku (田楽) comes from medieval public entertainment during agricultural festivals and celebrations. At the time “dengaku houshi” was the name given to dancers on tilts. Nowadays this words refers to grilled vegetables or tofu covered in a miso glaze, usually grilled on one thick skewer, reminiscent of these dancers. Shizuo Tsuji’s book contains two miso glaze types (red and white miso-based) and both call for egg yolks. Since the use of egg yolk requires a bigger batch of glaze, I decided to skip it (especially since most recipes found online didn’t mention it). Apart from this, I have also skipped sugar because I didn’t want my glaze to be excessively sweet. I have also mixed my white miso with black miso (I’m not fan of them separately, but they taste better together). Even such a modified aubergine/eggplant dengaku was fantastic. I encourage you to visit Shizuo Tsuji’s extraordinary book to check not only this recipe, but to learn much more about the world of Japanese cuisine.
TIPS: Use any miso you like. I have mixed here white and black, but you can use red miso too.
Adapt the sake, mirin and miso ratio to your taste.
It’s probably better to use Asian aubergine/eggplant here, but I had only the Western one (medium size) and the result was delicious too.
The thing I love about this recipe is that you can make it either on a real grill or under the oven grill/broiler or even on a pan. I found the oven broiler great not only because I simply don’t have an outside grill; it was also practical the second, glaze-grilling stage.
Preparation: about 30 minutes
Ingredients (serves two as a side dish):
1 medium Western aubergine cut in half lengthwise (or two Asian aubergines, cut likewise)
2 slightly heaped tablespoons red miso (or any other miso you have;I have mixed here white and black miso)
2 tablespoons dashi (Japanese stock) or water
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking sake)
1 tablespoon sake (you can double the mirin content if you don’t have normal sake, but the result will be sweeter)
toasted sesame seeds, dry furikake, green herbs…
Make a criss-cross pattern over the interior part of the aubergine halves.
Preheat the grill (or the oven grill).
Brush the aubergine with oil just before grilling (on both sides).
Grill first the cut side until dark golden (not burnt!).
In the meantime heat the glaze ingredients, stirring until dissolved.
Flop the aubergine halves and grill on the skin side for max. 5 minutes.
Place the aubergine on baking paper, cut side up.
Brush with miso glaze.
Grill until the miso glaze start bubbling (it took me 3 minutes under the oven grill).
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds or furikake or whatever you like.