Thursday, August 1, 2013

Eggplant "Age-bitashi" in donabe...I like it cold in the summer

Eggplant and Okra "Age-bitashi" in Donabe

During the summer, I eat eggplants almost every single day. It's no exaggeration. I eat eggplants all year round, but I just want to eat as many eggplants as possible during the hight of its season.

Eggplant, okra, tomato, corn...they are among my favorite summer vegetables and I almost never run out of them in my kitchen during the season.

One of my favorite eggplant recipes is "Age-bitashi" (揚げ浸し). It's basically eggplants are deep-fried, then marinated in a seasoned broth. Technically speaking, this dish is "Age-ni-bitashi" (揚げ煮浸し), which means the ingredients are deep-fried, simmered in broth, then marinated in it. This quick-simmering step is the key to make the extremely delicate "pillow" texture of eggplants. Also, because the skin of eggplants are scored at extremely narrow intervals, you can even cut them by gently pushing with chopsticks. Oh so lovely.

 photo IMG_1548_zps0a74111f.jpg  photo IMG_1549_zpsd4293ea7.jpg  photo IMG_1550_zpsb2730c2c.jpg
Make shallow incisions in 2 mm intervals on the skin side of halved eggplants. Deep-fry eggplants and okra separately. Make sure to drain excess grease from the vegetables by using paper towel.

 photo IMG_1544_zpsc7a2920e.jpg  photo IMG_1551_zps1d0fc34a.jpg  photo IMG_1552_zps6302edaf.jpg  photo IMG_1557_zpsadb3b791.jpg
Meanwhile, make the broth by fortifying dashi stock with extra shaved dry bonito ("oi-gatsuo") and simmer with sake, miring, sugar, and soy sauce. Add the eggplant and simmer for 5 minutes. As soon as turning off the heat, add the okra and some cooked sansho pepper berries (optional). Let them rest for at least 30 minutes. You can enjoy this dish warm, or refrigerate it (in a different container) for 1 day and serve cold. I love it chilled the next day!

Here's my recipe.

Eggplant "Age-ni-bitashi" 
(deep-fried, simmered, and marinated eggplant)

Ingredients: (3-4 servings as an appetizer)
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) dashi stock
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
5 g (about 1/2 cup) shaved dry bonito ("katsuo-bushi")
1 teaspoon blanched sansho pepper berries (optional)

5 medium-large size eggplant
8-10 medium-size okra
vegetable oil for deep-frying

  1. In a donabe, combine the dashi stock, sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring to simmer and add the "katsuo-bushi". (You can use a large tea bag to infuse "katsuo-bushi".) Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove "katsuo-bushi" and gently squeeze out the broth from tea bag. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  2. Cut off the stem from each eggplant. Cut in half lengthwise. Make shallow incisions on the skin side in 2 mm intervals. (You cut eggplants right before they are ready to deep-fry.)
  3. Deep-fry the eggplants in the 350F (170C) degrees oil until just tender (2-3 minutes). Let them drain excess grease by using paper towel.
  4. Deep-fry the okra until just tender (about 1 minute). Set aside.
  5. Bring the broth back to simmer. While the eggplants are still very warm, add them to the donabe. Cover with lid and simmer for 5 minutes over low heat.
  6. Turn off the heat and add the okra and sansho pepper berries.
  7. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes and enjoy warm. Or, you can transfer the dish to a different container and refrigerate up to 1 day and enjoy chilled.
*If you can't find sansho pepper berries, you can substitute with sansho powder and sprinkle some at service.

Happy donabe life.