A beautiful Japanese eggplant salad recipe with traditional Japanese flavors.
Japanese eggplants are elegant and beautiful to serve. They can also be cooked a variety of ways. My dear friend Kaui has an incredible green thumb and graciously gave me some eggplants and tomatoes from her garden. I knew exactly what recipe I wanted to try with the generous gifts from my friend.I had been eyeing a Japanese eggplant salad recipe from Terra: Cooking from the Heart of Napa Valley by Chef Hiro Sone of Terra Restaurant.
The umami and pungent flavors from the marinade and dressings are highlighted in Chef Sone’s recipe. This Japanese eggplant salad has multiple components, but I promise, the flavors are what you can expect to taste when dining in Japan!
Momiji oroshi is grated daikon seasoned with cayenne and paprika. It is important in this recipe because it helps the ponzu adhere to the eggplant, making its flavor more intense. Start by peeling, slicing and chopping the daikon into small pieces that can easily fit into a blender.
Combine the daikon and water in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a fine-meshed sieve and let drain without pressing for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; whisk in the cayenne and paprika. Cover and refrigerate up to 6 hours.
In a pot of boiling water, briefly, blanch the beans until just tender. Cool the beans in ice cold water, remove from water and dry.
Peel and grate the fresh ginger and garlic.
Grate and freshly squeeze lemon juice from 1 lemon.
Peel the eggplants lengthwise, leaving strips of skin unpeeled to make a striped pattern. Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 5 wedges, then cut those in half crosswise.
In a large bowl, whisk 2 quarts water with 1 tablespoon salt and soak the eggplants in the salted water for 15 minutes to remove the bitterness. Drain the eggplant and carefully pat dry with paper towels to remove all the moisture.
Heat 2 inches of oil to 300 F in a deep, heavy pot. Add as many eggplant pieces as will fit without overcrowding and deep-fry for about 1 minute, or until they are cooked through but not browned.
Using a wire-mesh skimmer or slotted metal spoon. Transfer the eggplant to a metal colander in a single layer. Pour hot water over the eggplant for 15 seconds to remove the residual oil, then transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.
Remove eggplants from the ice water and pat dry. Repeat the process for the remaining eggplant.
In a non-aluminum bowl prepare the sake marinade; combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, grated ginger and garlic, whisk together all the ingredients. Place the eggplant in a large bowl, add the sake marinade, and toss gently. Marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Finely chop the chives; wrap a small piece of paper towel around the base of the chive stems to hold them together as you are cutting the chives.
Lightly toast sesame seeds in a small pan over medium-low heat until seeds are golden in color.
To prepare the ponzu: In a small non-aluminum saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Let cool and refrigerate. Ponzu will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; remove the lemon zest before using.
After the eggplants have completed marinating in the sake mixture, add the beans, momiji oroshi, chives, tomatoes and ponzu and gently combine. Divide the salad among 4 chilled shallow bowls. Top with the upland cress or pea shoots and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Eggplants are perfect for marinating because they quickly become immersed with flavor. Another benefit is that once you have the key ingredients; mirin, sake, shoyu and rice wine vinegar, you can create numerous Japanese meals!
The marinade can also be used for flavoring meats, and the dressing is the classic Japanese oil and vinegar dipping sauce that you can use for many other dishes.
This tender fried eggplant salad infused with sake marinade is complimented with crisp beans and bright cherry tomatoes. This recipe is a traditional Japanese dish that you might find in a bento box or as part of a kaiseki meal (multi-course Japanese meal).
I chose to add my friends garden fresh tomatoes for subtle acidity to help cleanse the palate from the rich and umami flavors and utilized fresh peas shoots for an earthy taste. This dish is simple yet complex in flavor profile. This Japanese eggplant salad would pair very nicely with a juicy and crisp white wine like Riesling or a nice cold Sapporo.