Steamed Aubergine with a Korean Sesame and Chilli Sauce

I have good news for all those who avoid aubergines due to their scary fat absorbing capacity: they are absolutely delicious steamed! Though any aubergine can be used, I find mini and so-called “Asian” varieties particularly fit for this method, so I am always thrilled to see them finally in my grocery shop or on farmers markets. Steamed aubergine is not new to me, but this summer I tried it seasoned Korean way and loved it. Easy, quick and addictive, this is a perfect cooling summer side dish!

I found this easy recipe in Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo, a collection of fantastic and easy Korean home recipes, which was a wonderful present from a particularly kind friend of mine. As always I have slightly changed the amounts of ingredients and have also added some rice vinegar to make this dish even more summery (I always crave vinegared side-dishes when it’s hot), so make sure you check the original recipe in this beautifully illustrated book.

If one day you’ve had enough of the Korean flavours, you might try steamed aubergines with a Sichuanese chilli sauce:

Steamed Aubergine with Chilli Sauce

TIPS: You can serve these aubergines both cold and tepid, but I don’t advice serving them hot. (You can also prepare them in advance, but maybe several hours before…. they tend to lose taste and texture if kept for example 24 hours).

You will find the ingredients of this sauce in any Asian shop (or maybe even a “normal” supermarket). If you cannot buy Korean powdered chilli pepper, use any powdered chilli you have (adjust the heat level to your palate). In this case, the best solution, in my opinion, is to grind whole dried chilli peppers to a rough texture (not a complete powder), but even completely powdered chilli will be ok here.

Preparation: about 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves two as a side-dish):

4-5 small aubergines (by small I mean the small thin-skinned variety) or 1 medium Western aubergine

toasted sesame seeds


1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or more, if using low-sodium soy sauce)

2 long stems of spring onion, chopped

1-2 big crushed garlic clove(s)

1 heaped teaspoon Korean chilli flakes/powder or any other chilli flakes/powder

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Preheat water in a steamer, a rice -cooker with a steaming plate or in a pan (if you use a steaming basket).

Cut the small aubergines in two lengthwise, and then in two widthwise (removing the leaves and the stem of course). If you use a Western bigger variety, cut it in four lengthwise and then cut each piece in two.

Steam at high heat for about ten-fifteen minutes.

Serve cold or tepid with the sauce on top, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

14 Replies to “Steamed Aubergine with a Korean Sesame and Chilli Sauce”

  1. A new Korean restaurant just recently opened in our neighbourhood and we absolutely love it. Charles (Five Euro Food, now on hiatus), introduced us to Korean flavours when we met up with him in 2012 in Paris, we loved it but oddly did not seek Korean places out after that. Laziness? Not sure, but I am somewhat skeptical about some cultures cleanliness for restaurants (we have Dine Safe in Toronto, a government agency who inspect and rate restaurants and even close them down if they have too many offences, and south East Asians seem to have the most issues). Not withstanding, I am totally in love with the moreish flavours of your dish, and you can bet, I will make this as a light dinner. I adore the texture of eggplant, so creamy and smooth and the little bite of the skin just sends it over the top for me. JT isn’t as keen, but he has been choosing healthier options, so I know he will be all over this too!

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I think I remember you told me about the Paris experience with Korean cuisine.
      You might not believe me, but even though I’ve been cooking Korean for several years, I went only once to a Korean restaurant here (there are several though…) and the first time I had a Korean meal not cooked by myself was in Tokyo! (Then in Korea too). I must say I was especially reluctant to go to Korean restaurants because I knew their food wouldn’t be spicy enough for me (and it’s not enough to add more hot sauce at the end, of course!). The only one I went to here was really bad and the service was awful, so I never tested any other place (strangely this restaurant still exists! I never understood why).

  2. Hi Sissi!

    This eggplant dish looks absolutely gorgeous as it looks delicious. I’ll definitely try this. So thank you for the wonderful food creations again. I’ll check out the “Our Korean Kitchen” book cuz I really love Korean food too. It would be really great cuz I just moved to the German countryside from Thailand so the recipes would use ingredients available in Europe. As a side note, I coincidentally read the comments from the previous fellow commenter. Coming from Southeast Asia, where Thai food is becoming popular around the world during the past few years, if the Toronto food police ever came to inspect, I suspect, more than 90% of the local kitchens would be closed down. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Hi David,
      Thank you so much for the compliments! So you no longer live in Asia? Check for Asian food shops on internet (you would be surprised how much you can buy even on Amazon… I bought a Thai lime tree – a small one – from German Amazon!) and especially Korean products are easily available (kimchi, chilli pepper).
      I’ve never been to Thailand, but even in Japan, where often small at first shabby-looking restaurants are really clean, most of them would never pass the European hygiene inspection either (the cooking installations, the proximity of certain products, water evacuation, washing system,etc.).
      I hope you enjoy living in Germany!

  3. Another beautiful aubergine dish! I have never had them steamed, just roasted or fried, so this would be a very nice change. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you so much, Adina. The texture is quite different, I hope you will like them this way too.

  4. Well, the fat absorbing characteristic of aubergine (eggplant) is something I considering a quality characteristic. Love using a really good olive oil. However, steaming is probably a healthier choice. ๐Ÿ™‚ Either way, this chili sauce sounds absolutely wonderful with eggplant. I know I’ll be making this hopefully in august for 3 reasons: one, it looks delicious!, two,I have eggplant growing in the garden and three, I have a really nice bag of Korean chili(e) powder from a friend. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks Sissi! I know you have other aubergine recipes so I’ll be back once I actually start picking.

    1. Thanks a lot, MJ! I don’t mind some oil in aubergines but not when they drip with oil, which was the way I discovered them and it has put me off this vegetable for quite long…. (though I discovered they can be pan-fried in a small amount of oil and they taste good this way too!). You can of course use this chilli sauce with fried aubergines too!
      Lucky you!!! I cannot even imagine how good one’s own aubergines can be… I hope you like Korean chilli powder. I use it all the time in different dishes (not only Korean of course).

  5. This is one of the most beautiful aubergine dishes I’ve ever seen Sissi! And so much more interesting than my American style eggplant schlock ;-). I love the flavors you’ve married here – the recipe is simple yet the impact potent; a Sissi classic. I really want to try this one!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. They do have a weird gloomy colour though, don’t they? Luckily there’s Korean chilli powder! It’s very quick to prepare, so I hope you will try it soon.

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