I’ve never been to a Japanese restaurant without ordering Nasu Miso Dengaku – tender slivers of aubergine coated with a sticky-sweet and savoury miso glaze that’s naturally vegan. This humble but impressive dish is as classic as it gets, tracing its roots all the way back to 16th century Japan!
Well imagine my delight upon discovering that with a bit of polishing and practiced perfection (mainly fiddling around with my oven settings), vegan miso aubergine is quick and easy to rustle up at home here in India too. Once you have a few key Japanese ingredients on hand, it’s simply a matter of roasting the aubergine, generously brushing it with the miso glaze and popping it under the broiler in your oven until caramelised.
What is Miso Anyways?
If you’re keen on Japanese cuisine, you’ll instantly recognise miso as a hero ingredient across a versatile range of dishes from a simple soup to marinades for hearty preparations of fish, meats and even vegetables. Essentially a fermented soybean paste, miso is intensely rich in umami with salty shades of savouriness and a subtle touch of sweetness.
Here miso lends its unique depth of flavours to a “miso dengaku” sauce which we use for making classic miso-glazed aubergine, which is naturally vegan by virtue of the ingredients.
How To Make Vegan Miso Aubergine
We start by stirring together the vegan miso glaze (miso dengaku sauce) for the aubergine, using:
- Miso: dark miso is preferable for its pungent profile; however you can also use a lighter white miso (just be sure to taste and adjust the miso dengaku sauce accordingly with more miso if required).
- Cooking sake: this is essential for imparting a subtle dryness to the glaze balanced by sake’s signature sharpness.
- Mirin: a fermented rice wine, mirin is another key ingredient for balancing the flavours, particularly by cutting the saltiness of the miso with its sweetness.
- Jaggery: Sugar is also needed to balance the salty edge of the miso. While regular white sugar is most commonly user, I prefer jaggery as an unrefined and healthier option. Not to mention it adds a caramel-esque flavour to the glaze!
I sourced all my Japanese ingredients from Urban Platter.
Next, prepare the aubergine:
- Cut the aubergine lengthwise in halves, scoring a diamond (criss-cross) pattern in the flesh in order to ensure that the flavours of the glaze permeate through the flesh.
- Immediately place the aubergine in a bowl of cold water. Not only does this help to remove the bitterness of the aubergine, but it also stops the aubergine from changing colour. Next, drain and pat dry the aubergine, before brushing it all over with oil to prepare it for roasting.
- Roast the aubergine in a pre-heated oven until tender (but not completely cooked through). Then remove from the oven and generously brush the miso glaze across the surface until uniformly coated (ideally you should be able to see the sticky glaze seeping through the crevices!).
- Adjust the settings of your oven, by switching on and pre-heating the broiler for a couple of minutes (that is , the grilling function at the top of the oven with direct overhead heat). Place the baking tray back in the oven, positioned around six inches below the broiler, and then broil the aubergine for 3-5 minutes until the miso glaze is bubbling and the aubergines have developed a caramelised char on top!
- Remove from the oven and serve your vegan miso aubergine hot, with a garnish of black sesame seeds.
Vegan Miso Aubergine
For the miso glaze
- 2 tbsp sake
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 3 tbsp jaggery/ jaggery syrup (alternatively use sugar)
- 3 tbsp miso (preferably red miso; if using a lighter miso, increase to 4 tbsp)
For the aubergine dengaku
- 2 aubergines (see recipe notes)
- olive oil for brushing (alternatively use a neutral-flavoured oil)
- black sesame seeds, toasted (for garnish)
Prepare the miso glaze
- Combine the sake and mirin in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Then turn the heat to the lowest setting and whisk in the miso and jaggery, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes until the jaggery has dissolved and the glaze has thickened. Be careful to ensure that the miso does not burn. Remove from heat.
Prepare the aubergine dengaku
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
- Slice the aubergine lengthwise in half. Use a knife to score a diamond (criss-cross) pattern across the flesh. Immediately immerse the aubergine pieces in cold water and then drain/ pat-dry completely with a kitchen towel.
- Brush oil across the top and bottom of the aubergine pieces. Place each piece with its skin down on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or so until tender (but not fully roasted).
- Remove the baking tray from the oven and pre-heat the broiler (top heating element) in your oven for a couple of minutes.
- Brush the miso glaze generously across the aubergine halves and make sure that each crevice is evenly coated with sticky glaze.
- Put the baking tray back in the oven, placing it six inches under the broiling/ top heating element. Broil the aubergine pieces for 4 -5 minutes until you can see the miso glaze bubbling and a caramelised char developing on the surface.
- Remove from the oven and serve hot , with a garnish of black toasted sesame seeds on top!
- If using “globe” aubergines (standard American eggplant), try to choose individual pieces which are not too large in size. This is because if the aubergine is too big/ deep, the miso glaze might not seep all the way through whilst broiling. It is preferable to use Japanese/ Chinese eggplant if available.
- Leftover miso glaze can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
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