Thursday, August 29, 2013

Last Saturday's Donabe Cooking Class

Private donabe cooking class

Last Saturday, I hosted a private cooking class for a group of 5 Japanese girls. The theme was "Nourishing Donabe Dishes for Warm Weather".

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We made 5 different dishes by using 4 different kinds of donabe. We had such a fun time cooking! Once all the dishes were made, we all served them and sat down to enjoy together.

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Syrah rose wine from Rhone was fantastic for the meal.

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A variety of nourishing dishes...Steam-roasted Asparagus & Kabocha with Yuzu-kosho Vinaigrette, Hijiki & Vegetable Quick Stew Salad, Sake-steamed Clams, Chicken & Tofu in Daikon "Mizore" Broth, and Wakame Seaweed & "Shirasu" Baby Fish Rice.

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I made Orange Pekoe Chai Ice Cream with "Pickled" White Nectarine as a little surprise dessert. I marinated the nectarine simply in my Kyoto-style "awase-zu".

I really enjoy sharing joy of donabe cooking!

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I will be in a big venue next. I'm invited as a speaker at this year's Roots Conference, hosted by the Chef's Garden in Ohio on September 8 and 9. I will give a presentation about donabe cooking with Chef Kyle Connaughton. I packed and shipped two jumbo size double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san", and a lot of premium new crop koshihikari rice, grown in Uruguay, by Tamaki Farms, to make tasting samples for 150-200 top chefs and culinary professionals from all over the US.

I'm really thrilled.
Happy donabe life.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hiyashi Chuka Cold Noodles with Donabe-smoked Toppings

Donabe-smoked Hiyashi Chuka
Just like cold somen noodles, Hiyashi Chuka (Chinese-style cold noodles with toppings) is one of our regular dishes at home during the summer.

This summer, somehow I decided to smoke the ingredients with my donabe somker, "Ibushi Gin" for hiyashi chuka one day, and it became an instant huge hit. Since then, this smoked hiyashi chuka has become our mainstream.

The process is extremely simple with the donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin".

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Once the smoke chips were set in the bottom of the donabe, ingredients were set, in order of chicken tender, soft boiled eggs, and grilled vegetables from the bottom.

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Donabe was set over high heat. Once the smoke starts to come out, I covered it with the lid, and smoked for 5 minutes over high heat. The heat was turned off and the donabe was let rest for 15 minutes (meanwhile, the ingredients were continued to be smoked and cooked with carry over heat and smoke inside).

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The ingredients were perfectly smoked and so aromatic.

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Chicken tender was really tender, and soft boiled eggs kept the soft egg yolk, while the outside absorbed a lot of smokiness. Grilled corn and okra were nicely smokey, too. I got ready the ingredients, along with my killer yuzu-soy sauce for the noodles. With additional sliced radish, cilantro, and pickled ginger, my smoked hiyashi chuka was ready.

Here's my recipe.

Smoked Hiyashi Chuka(for donabe smoker, "Ibushi Gin")

Ingredients: (2 servings)

2 strips chicken tender
1 teaspoon shio koji or 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 ear corn
6 medium okra
2 small lime wedges
1 radish, thinly-sliced some chopped cilantro some pickled ginger ("beni shoga")

(yuzu-soy sauce)
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or Japanese black vinegar ("kurozu")
1 tablespoon yuzu juice or lemon juice 1 tablespoon sesame oil

 2 servings Chinese noodles
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons roasted white sesame seeds

Ohter things you need: 
a piece of aluminum foil
a small handful (about 1/3 oz or 8 g) of smoke chips

  1. Marinate the chicken in shio-koji for a few hours (or at least 30 minutes). Gently wipe off the marinade with paper towel. Set aside.
  2. Grill the corn and okra until they are barely cooked. Split the corn cub in half by knife. Set aside.
  3. Boil the eggs until just done. Peel and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.
  5. Line the bottom of “Ibushi Gin” with a piece of aluminum foil. Spread the smoke chips so that they make a ring shape. Make sure the foil is tightly attached to the bottom.
  6. Set the ingredients on the racks in "Ibushi Gin" in the order of the chicken tender (bottom rack), eggs (middle rack), and corn and okra (top rack).
  7. Set “Ibushi Gin” (with no lid) over high heat. Wait until the chips starts smoking (about 7-8 minutes).
  8. Cover with lid and pour water into the rim surrounding the lid. Continue to heat for 5 minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and let it rest (with lid on) for 15 minutes.
  10. Shred the chicken by hand. Cut the eggs in half. Also cut the okra in half at an angle. Cut the corn kernels from the cob. Set aside.
  11. Cook the noodles according to the package's instructions. Rinse in cold water and drain well.
  12. Divide the noodles into two bowls. For each, drizzle 1 teaspoon sesame oil and sprinkle 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and toss.
  13. Decorate the noodles with all the smoked ingredients, lime, radish, cilantro, and pickled ginger. Pour about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the sauce over each bowl and serve.
You can also find the recipe on toiro kitchen's website.

Happy donabe life.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cold Capellini with Roasted Eggplant and Yuzu-kosho Sauce

Cold Capellini with Roasted Eggplant and Yuzu-kosho Sauce

Yes, that's right...I eat eggplant basically every day during summer, and I have so many recipes (often I just make them up)!!

I was craving for a pasta dish lately, so I made a cold capellini (angel hair pasta) with Japanese eggplant.

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Once the eggplants are grilled, I peeled the skin and cut most of them into small pieces. I also cut some of them into thin strips. So, I can enjoy the different textures in the dish.

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Small cut eggplants were pureed with roasted garlic, then mixed with a small amount of yuzu-kosho, chopped dill, lemon juice, yuzu juice, olive oil, grated Parmigiano Reggiano salt and pepper.

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Capellini pasta was boiled 1 minute longer than the package instructions. After drained and rinsed in cold water, the pasta was quickly chilled in ice water. Ice water tightens the texture of the pasta, so it's important to cook it longer. Otherwise, the pasta would become too firm.

Pasta was quickly tossed in the sauce, divided into plates, and garnished with more Parmigiano Reggiano, diced tomato, shiso leaves, and more olive oil. The texture, flavor, and the temperature were all perfect! I loved the hint of yuzu-kosho wasn't overpowering, but rather it gave a nice accent and aroma. I also liked that I used dill to mix with the pasta and used shiso for topping, it made the dish so refreshing and more complex.

Here's my "whimsical" recipe.

Cold Capellini with Roasted Eggplant and Yuzu-kosho Sauce

Ingredients: (3 servings)

4 medium-size Japanese eggplants
1 clove garlic (unpeeled)
1/2 teaspoons or more yuzu-kosho paste
1/2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons combination of lemon and yuzu juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and pepper to taste

5 oz (150 g) capellini (angel hair) pasta
2-3 small tomatoes
some thinly-sliced shiso leaves
some more Parmigiano Reggiano, salt and pepper

  1. To prepare the tomatoes, blanch them 10 seconds in boiling water, shock in the ice water, and peel the skin. Cut into quarters and drain the juice and seeds. Cut into small cubes. In a small bowl, season the tomato with some salt, pepper, and olive oil. Chill in the refrigerator.
  2. Roast eggplant and garlic on a net over gas stove until the skin is charred and inside is soft. Peel the skin. Cut 3 egg plants into small pieces and put in a bowl. Cut the remaining 1 egg plant into strips. Set aside in a separate plate.
  3. Puree the small cut eggplants with roasted and peeled garlic. Add the remaining ingredients for the sauce and mix well. Cover and chill in refrigerator.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the capellini 1 minute longer than the instructions in a package. Drain and rinse in cold water, then immediately transfer to an ice water. Let it chill for 30 seconds. Drain well.
  5. Add the cappellini and saved eggplant slices into the bowl with the pureed eggplant sauce. Toss by using tongs.
  6. Divide into 3 plates. Garnish with additional Parmigiano Reggiano, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and shiso leaves. Serve immediately.
Loving this dish.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Japanese Gravlax Chirashi Sushi with Donabe Rice

Japanese Gravlax Chirashi Sushi with Donabe Rice

With my umami-rich gravlax, I also like to make simple Gravlax Chirashi Sushi! 

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I make sushi rice with my double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san", and season the rice with my Kyoto-style "Awase-zu". Rice was mixed with edamame and topped with a layer of sliced gravlax. Really delicious.

Gravlax Chirashi Sushi

Ingredients: (5 servings)
2 rice cups (360 ml) short grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water
4 tablespoons Kyoto-style "Awase-zu" vinegar seasoning
3/4 cup (180 ml) shelled edamame
10 oz (300 g) salmon gravlax or smoked salmon, thinly-sliced
some roasted white sesame seeds
some thinly-sliced radish
some dill


  1. In “Kamado-san”, combine the rice and water, and cook according to the basic plain rice instructions.
  2. As soon as the rice finished resting and ready, pour in the "Awase-zu" and quickly and gently fluff the rice. Add the edamame and fluff again. Cover with just a top lid and let the rice cool down to slightly warm temperature.
  3. Divide the rice into 5 plates. Cover the rice with the gravlax slices. Granish with sesame seeds, radish, and dill. Serve immediately.

*In the picture, I cooked partially-polished brown rice with some addition of multi-grains. So good.

Happy donabe life.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Umami-rich Japanese-style Gravlax with "Moshio" Sea Salt

Japanese-style Gravlax with Shaved Fennel
Whenever I get a whole half filet of fresh quality salmon, I save a good piece and make a gravlax with it.

My gravlax is very simple, and it has a hint of good Japanese nuance, because I use some shiso leaves and also "Moshio" sea salt.

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This is "Moshio" sea salt, from a small island off Hiroshima in Japan. In the process of the salt's making, "hondawara" seaweed was cooked in sea water and roasted with the salt until it becomes like ashes. This is the most ancient style of seaweed. In the island, they recovered ancient clay pots (yes, donabe!) which were used for making "Moshio" over 1,000 years ago from the ruins! "Hondawara" seaweed is very rich in umami flavor, so this ancient style sea salt is naturally rich in umami flavor and also very mild.

"Moshio" has been a staple ingredient in my kitchen. It's even great for a simple onigiri (rice ball) with no other ingredients. The good news..."Moshio" sea salt is distributed in the US, so US people can order online easily.

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So, I make the seasoning for curing salmon by using "Moshio" sea salt. Here's my gravlax recipe.

"Moshio" Gravlax

(Seasoning mix)
3 tablespoons "Moshio" sea salt
2 teaspoons Okinawa black sugar or raw brown sugar
1/3 cups (80 ml) chopped dill
1 tablespoons chopped shiso

1 1/2 pound (650 g) salmon filet, skin removed

  1. Mix together the ingredients for the seasoning mix.
  2. Line a tray with a piece of plastic wrap and spread half amount of the seasoning mix. Place the salmon over the seasoning mix and cover the top surface with the remaining seasoning mix. Spread evenly to cover all sides of the salmon.
  3. Tightly wrap the salmon with plastic wrap. Put another tray or a small cutting board over the salmon and put a weight (about twice the weight of the salmon). I use 3 packages of tofu as a weight:-)
  4. Let the salmon cure in refrigerator for 24 hours.
  5. Unwrap and gently rise off the seasoning from the salmon and pat dry.
  6. Slice and enjoy.
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After 24 hours, the salmon will release some juice. It's gently rinsed and patted dry, then the gravlax is ready.

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Here's a simple gravlax salad. I spread shavedfennel bulb in the bottom, sprinkle some salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Then I make a layer of sliced gravlax, garnish with fennel and sliced radish, and drizzle a little more lemon juice and olive oil. That's it. This salad is so simple and so tasty. My salmon gravlax is umami rich with "Moshio" seaweed with a hint of shiso. So wonderful!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer "Harusame" Noodle Salad with Kyoto-style "Awase-zu"

Summer "Harusame" Noodle Salad with Kyoto-style "Awase-zu"

This is another super quick recipe by using Kyoto-style "Awase-zu" vinegar seasoning.
"Harusame" is Japanese bean thread noodles. You can use other types of bean thread noodles for this recipe.

When I make this dish for lunch, I simply mix in whatever I find in the fridge. Since I have corn and okra almost all the time during summer, they are my easy choices. But, you can make it with other kinds of vegetables or even seafood or meat, if you like.

Summer Harusame Noodle Salad

Ingredients: (1 serving)
2 oz (50 g) harusame noodles or other types of bean thread noodles
3 tablespoons Kyoto-style "Awase-zu" vinegar seasoning
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
5 medium-size okra, grilled and sliced in half
1/2 ear corn, grilled and kernels sliced
1 radish, thinly-sliced
some chopped cilantro
some black pepper

  1. Cook harusame noodles according to its package instructions (I cook it slightly al dente). Rinse in cold water, drain well, and set aside. Cut the noodles if they are too long.
  2. In a small cup, combine the "Awase-zu" and fish sauce.
  3. In a bowl, combine the harusame noodles and "Awase-zu", and toss together. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss again.
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Lovely quick lunch, with a side dish of tofu, topped with homemade natto.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Okinawa Mozuku Seaweed in "Awase-zu" Sauce...My Super Food

"Mozuku-su" with Grilled Okra and Shredded Mountain Yam

It's still much less known than wakame or hijiki in the US, but Mozuku Seaweed is a very popular type of seaweed in Japan. Originally from Okinawa, it's dark brown, extremely slimy and the flavor is quite neutral on its own. It's a versatile ingredient for a wide variety of dishes.

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Especially in the summertime, Japanese people love to eat mozuku so much. The most popular way to eat is to serve it cold in a vinegar sauce (called "Mozuku-su"). I have cravings for "Mozuku-su" every day. It's so refreshing and tasty, and the big bonus is Mozuku is extremely healthy so-called Super Food!

Here in LA, luckily, we can find good quality mozuku at Japanese markets. The kind I buy is a package of fully-matured mozuku from Okinawa. You can use it right out of the package, so no rinsing or cutting is necessary.

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Mozuku is very low in calories, and packed with amazing level of nutrients. It's high in fucoidan, amino acid, and fibers, and gives antioxidant effect. It works not only to help keeping your blood sugar level low but also to help your blood flow become smooth and lowering your cholesterol level. For the best effect, it's good to eat mozuku at the beginning of a meal. The slimy part of the mozuku is known to help strengthening your immune system cleaning intestine.

How I like to eat mozuku is very simple and easy. I simply eat it with a quick vinegar sauce I make with my homemade Kyoto-style "Awase-zu" and dashi stock. I also put some shredded mountain yam ("yamaimo") and grilled okra. So, they make a healthy slimy trio. With the vinegar sauce, it's keeps me extremely healthy in the hot summer season. Here's my recipe.

(Okinawa Mozuku Seaweed in "Awase-zu" Sauce)

Ingredients: (2 servings)
2/3C (160 ml) mozuku seaweed, ready to use
4 medium-size okra, grilled and sliced in half diagonally
some mountain yam ("yama-imo"), peeled and sliced into thin shreds
some thinly-sliced shiso leaves

("Awase-zu" Sauce)
3 tablespoons Kyoto-sytle "Awase-zu"
3 tablespoons dashi stock
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

  1. Combine the ingredients for the sauce. Keep it chilled. Keep all the other ingredients chilled before assembling.
  2. Divide the mozuku in 2 small bowls. Top each with okra, "yama-imo", and shiso leaves.
  3. Pour the "Awase-zu" sauce.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Awase-zu" Marinated White Peach and Summer Vegetable Salad

"Awase-zu" marinated peach with summer vegetables...power salad!

This salad has become a big hit at home and among home guests this summer.
After marinating (quick-pickling) peach and shallot in my Kyoto-style "Awase-zu", I make vinaigrette with it and olive oil. It's so delightful! Also, because "Awase-zu" is very mild in acidity, you need much less oil to mix with it to make a vinaigrette. So, the salad is filling yet really light.

Here's my recipe:

"Awase-zu" Marinated White Peach and Summer Vegetable Salad

Ingredients: (4 servings)
2 small-size ripe white peach, cut into wedges
1 shallot, thinly-sliced
2 tablespoons Kyoto-style "Awase-zu"
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
kernels from 1/2 grilled corn
8-10 medium-size okra, grilled and cut in half diagonally
a few leaves of red kale, cut and tenderized by hand
other leafy vegetables such as arugula and escarole
some small heirloom tomatoes
some dill
some roasted and crushed almonds
a few radishes, thinly-sliced
some feta cheese, crumbled
some dill
some mint

  1. In a bowl, combine the "Awase-zu" and lemon juice with a pinch of salt. Add the peach and shallot. Cover and let them marinade for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Remove the peach and set aside.
  3. To the "Awase-zu" mixture, whisk in the olive oil. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. ("Awase-zu" vinaigrette)
  4. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and add the "Awase-zu" vinaigrette. Toss and transfer to a serving plate.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kyoto-style "Awase-zu" all purpose vinegar seasoning

Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes in "Awase-zu" Dressing

Back in my last trip to Kyoto, I visited Murayama Zosu, who makes famous "Chidori-su" brand vinegar and is one of the oldest and most traditional rice vinegar makers in Japan. During the visit, Murayama-san, the owner of the company kindly gave gifts of their products to my friend and I. One of them was Chidori-su brand's "Awase-zu", which is their rice vinegar, seasoned with mirin, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and yuzu juice.

Their "Awase-zu" was so round, delicate, and tasty. I used it for so many different dishes and used up so quickly. I really wanted to make a similar "Awase-zu" myself, but the only clues were the ingredients list in the back label of the bottle and my memory of the aroma.

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After a few test kitchen experiments, I could make my version of "Awase-zu", which has the closest aroma and flavor to their "Awase-zu"! I was so happy. So, I put mine in the original Chidori-su's "Awase-zu" bottle.

For the best result, I highly recommend you find premium Kyoto brand vinegar, which is brewed to best result with very natural and mild flavors. But, I know it's not easy to find such vinegars in the US, so you could also make it with other Japanese brands' rice vinegar with milder acidity level (about 4.2%).

Here's my "Awase-zu" recipe.

Kyoto-style all purpose "Awase-zu"

Ingredients: (for approx. 1.5 cups or 300 ml)
1 cup (240 ml) rice vinegar (4.2% or 4.3% acidity level)
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons light color soy sauce ("usukuchi shoyu")
4 teaspoons yuzu juice

  1. In a sauce pan, combine all the ingredients except for the yuzu juice. Set over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. 
  2. As soon as it starts boiling, turn off the heat. Add the yuzu juice and let it cool it down.
*This "Awase-zu" can keep at a cool storage for a while (I don't know exactly how long, because I use it up quite fast and make a new batch every so often.)

You can simply drizzle this "Awase-zu" over grilled fish, seaweed salad, etc. Or, mix with olive oil with some salt and pepper and make Japanese-style vinaigrette.

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Here's one of my regular dishes made with "Awase-zu" this summer. I got an inspiration to make this when I visited accessory designer, Chan Luu's beautiful home for breakfast. Chan is a wonderful cook and she made marinated heirloom tomatoes with white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Japanese-flavored Marinated Herloom Tomatos

2 pounds (900 g) heirloom tomatoes

1 tablespoon "Awase-zu"
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon raw brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vegetable powder (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper  to taste

some dill

  1. Blanch the tomatoes in simmering water for 10 seconds. Shock them in ice water and peel the skin.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into wedges. Put them in a strainer and let them drain excess liquid for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl, combine the tomato wedges and the marinade. Add some dill leaves and gently mix them together with a large spoon.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, stir a couple of times for even marinade.
This dish is like a eating gazpacho. It's so tasty and you want to drink up all the juice to finish the dish.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Grated Mountain Yam & Yuzu-kosho for Cold Donabe Noodles

Just like every summer, I've been eating a lot of cold noodles for lunch this summer. Whether it's somen, udon, or hiyamugi noodles, I always use donabe as a serving vessel for the cold noodles.

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With ice and some water, authentic Iga-yaki donabe can keep the noodles very cold for a long time. It also makes a beautiful presentation. This time, I used medium-size classic-style donabe, "Yu Kizeto". I cooked hiyamugi noodles (slightly thicker than somen noodles) for Jason and served with condiments and dipping sauce. (You can find the recipe for cold dipping sauce in my previous blog post here.)

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The fun part about getting ready the cold noodle dish is to prepare the condiments. The favorite of this summer is using tons of grated mountain yam ("yama-imo") and yuzu-kosho and mix them lightly after topping them on the noodles in a dipping sauce. Other regular condiemts are, shredded ginger, sliced scallion, sliced shiso, torn nori seaweed, and roasted sesame seeds. Fantastic.

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As a side dish, I grilled some Japanese eggplants.

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And, served with simple sesame sauce, garnished with ground sesame seeds and shiso leaves. Here's my quick sesame sauce recipe.

Simple Sesame Sauce over grilled eggplant

Roast 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds until aromatic. In Japanese mortar and pestle ("suribachi and surikogi"), ground the sesame seeds until very fine. Add 2 teaspoons raw brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoons shio-koji (or 1/3 teaspoons sea salt), 2 tablespoons tahini paste, 1 1/2 tablespoons light color soy sauce ("usukuchi shoyu"), and 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar. Whisk together until smooth.

Pour over grilled eggplants (peeled and cut). Garnish with some ground sesame seeds and shiso leaves.

Happy donabe life.