Anguel and I love Japanese food. Living in Vancouver is a dream-come-true in that regard. This city is jam packed with sushi spots. But, as vegetarians, we pick our sushi spots wisely. We need substance, and tempura-coated things will only get us so far. So, despite all the options – there's really just one spot we frequent regularly. It's been a family favorite for years…but based on the ever growing line up, word has obviously gotten around. The line up of hungry patrons starts at least thirty minutes before opening. They don't do reservations. They don't do lunch. Oh and they're closed on Sunday. And Monday.
When Anguel and I are looking for our Japanese fix, we usually do one of two things. We'll either hop in the car and drive to said place – which unfortunately means fighting rush hour traffic and then standing in line for an hour. Or, we stay home and whip up our own feast instead. Based on this post, you can probably guess which one we've been doing more of lately. I'll give you a hint: we really like to stay in our sweatpants and might have a dance routine that involves brushing delicious miso glaze on some roasted eggplant...
This recipe is inspired by the classic miso glazed eggplant recipe, also known as Nasu Dengaku. Our favorite sushi spot absolutely kills it with theirs. It's our favorite dish on the menu. I've dreamt about it once (no joke). When Anguel and I visit that restaurant, we each order our own plate. And we've even trained our friends to do the same – because when it comes to sharing this dish, no can do. Our homemade version embodies the same flavors that make this dish so craveable – it's salty, sweet, and has just the right amount of umami flavor. And it turns out making this dish at home is really easy, and a lot easier on the wallet!
Rather than serving up the eggplant whole, we've started to make kebabs out of them. Because kebabs are always more fun. Seriously though - we found that roasting the eggplant in bite sized pieces is great for two reasons. First, it allows you to get more of the delicious glaze around all sides of the eggplant, rather than just being restricted to the top. The glaze is really what this dish is all about. And second, food + wooden sticks make for a fun time. This format makes for easy eating – and it's a unique dish to make for friends when entertaining. These kebabs are easy to bake in advance of a party, and can be quickly heated up just before serving. They're a hit at potlucks, because we all know they can use a bit more health and a lot more vegetarian / vegan options!
Making these kabobs is super simple. Your eggplant pieces will bake in the oven, skin side up. The skin will become roasted and delicious – which is great because you'll be eating it! There are a lot of nutrients in the skin, so it would be a shame to skimp out on them. While your eggplant bakes in the oven, you'll prepare the savory miso glaze. Once most of the baking is done, the glaze gets brushed over the cut sides of the eggplant. And, since we're maximizing surface area, you'll want to make sure you get that glaze everywhere. Seriously, get your Picasso on and make sure you lather all the little nooks and crannies. Be good to this eggplant, and it'll be good to you. A quick final bake in the oven gets the sauce all hot and caramelized. Your kabobs will emerge as well browned bites with a soft, silky interior.
And we haven't even talked about the salad yet! This Asian-inspired kale and seaweed salad is awesome served alongside the glazed eggplant. Or on its own. By seaweed's looks alone, you can probably guess that it's healthy for you. Seaweed is nutrient rich – it's a great source of iodine, calcium, potassium and iron. In this recipe, I use dried Arame seaweed, which are thin seaweed threads. Personally, I find this to be one of the better tasting seaweeds out there. And, it's packed with fiber! Prepping dried Arame seaweed is easy. Give it a quick soak and then boil it in water for 10 minutes. Strain and add to your greens. So easy, right?! Kale isn't the most traditional add-in for a Japanese seaweed salad, but it works – big time. Although sometimes I’m in the mood for straight-up seaweed, more often than not, I much prefer it dispersed among some other greens. This salad delivers just enough seaweed flavor, without overpowering your entire palette.
What I love about this salad is that it's really healthy for you – and doesn't require a bazillion ingredients. Sometimes simplest is best. The salad dressing uses almost all the same ingredients used for the eggplant! So don't be deterred by the ingredients list – they're just doubled up to make the recipe easier to follow.
Miso Glazed Eggplant Skewers
- 1½ lb Japanese eggplant (about 3 medium)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 3 tablespoons white miso paste (see note 1)
- 1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1½ teaspoons tamari (or soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- 2 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced
- Steamed Jasmine rice (optional)
- Kale Seaweed Salad (optional)
- Preheat oven, soak skewers: Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Soak 12(6-inch) skewers in warm water for at least 10 minutes.
- Prep eggplant: Trim ends off eggplant. Cut each eggplant in half, lengthwise, then cut into ¾-inch half moons. Thread eggplant onto soaked skewers, leaving a small gap between each piece.
- Bake skewers: Place skewers on a parchment lined baking sheet (see note 2). Brush eggplant all over with oil. Arrange skewers skin-side up. Bake until the eggplant is soft and the skin is browned, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Make glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together miso, rice vinegar, sesame oil, tamari, honey, and ginger.
- Brush and bake again: Flip the skewers (skin should now be facing down). Brush the top of the eggplant generously with glaze, getting in all the nooks and crannies. Bake until the tops begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with rice and kale seaweed salad (if using).
- Miso: White (shiro) miso is a mild miso paste, most commonly available at conventional grocery stores. You could use yellow or red miso instead, but these are saltier, so taste before adding the tamari (and adjust if needed).
- If using foil instead of parchment: Eggplant acts like a sponge, so it quickly absorbs sauce and even oil. If you need to use foil instead of parchment, add more oil to prevent sticking.