Sweet-miso glazed eggplant, or which I am more comfortable to call "nasu dengaku, | なす田楽", is a VERY easy recipe which involves a homemade sweet miso sauce and eggplant which I sometimes grill, fry or roast.
I've cooked this recipe at a family friend's gathering for dinner, together with other dishes, but this one became the highlight of the night. Everyone loved the sauce and even used it to dress their fresh cucumbers and lightly grilled tofu. Now I owe everyone this recipe. Sorry it's late! Been having difficulty getting myself to blog again. But this one's standardized now!
Being a vegetarian and a foreigner in Japan is difficult. There are three systems of writing and everything is written in a mix of all three them. Most foods have katsuo (bonito fish) and you almost never, if not never, can ask restaurants to make a dish vegetarian for you. Unless it's indicated in their menu.
So there's very limited choice for vegetarians in common places. Especially to vegetarians like me who don't eat anything from the onion family-- onion, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots, et cetera.
But I'm still one of the lucky vegetarians married to a non-vegetarian family. My kind and thoughtful mother-in-law is a very good home cook who knows a lot of dishes, and my warm and funny father-in-law is a professional cook. Oooh, I can see envy lit up your eyes. Bwahahaha!
I discovered about sweet miso sauce when my mother-in-law cooked it for me one dinner. She poured it over some fried tofu and eggplant, and I memorized the taste with every bite. As soon as my husband and I are back in our apartment four hours away from his parents, I tried to replicate that miso sauce. Now that I have replicated it several times, I'm proud to have made this standardized version that never has failed me. I'm confident this recipe won't fail you either.
In a small saucepan, mix the first 6 ingredients. Let it boil under low fire.
In a small bowl, mix cassava/potato starch and water and add into the saucepan while mixing consistently.
Let the sauce boil for a minute. Adjust taste if needed and boil again for about half a minute. Set aside.
Cut a long eggplant into half crosswise and 1/2 or 1/3 lengthwise (depending on the thickness of the eggplant). Make shallow crisscross marks on the flesh of the eggplant for the sauce to seep into. Fry/Grill/Roast eggplant.
Top or glaze the topside of the eggplant with the sweet miso sauce.
Tips and Tricks
This dish tastes good even after the eggplant has lost heat. But you will be surprised at how wonderful it can taste when the eggplant is still hot! My technique is, of course, either cook the eggplant just before it is eaten or; toast the sweet-miso-glazed eggplant in the toaster just before eating. If you want to have it in your bento, it is possible.
The technique in making the sauce is cooking it under low heat all the way through and; using a small saucepan so as to make it very easy to handle. When using wide pans, the sauce unnecessarily spreads out, letting the circumference of the mixture burn fast.
As for the kind of miso, if you can't find 58% less salt, just get any miso paste and adjust the amount of mirin, sugar and water.