Eggplant is one of those vegetables that just doesn’t get the love it deserves. It makes for a good eggplant parmesan and baba ghanoush, but beyond that, it’s often a forgotten summer side that’s left to char on the grill while people go for the bell peppers and zucchini.
Over in Japan it’s a different story though and the humble eggplant is one of summer’s hottest vegetables. Nikumiso Dengaku is a delightfully flavorful dish that’s made by carving out eggplants to make bowls, and then stuffing them with nikumiso (literally: “meat miso”). I’ve done a more standard meatless take on eggplant dengaku before, but this version takes this dish from a tasty side to a hearty main.
As with any dengaku, the secret to the nutty, chocolate brown sauce is the hatcho miso. It’s made from soybeans and barley just like most miso, but a special cooking process and two years in a cedar cask gives it its dark color and incredible depth. Along with some ground pork and ginger, it makes for a divine sauce with deep earthy notes reminiscent of black beans and caramel.
- 2 medium-sized eggplants
- 2 tablespoons hatcho miso (black miso)
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 0.4 ounces (12 grams) ginger, minced
- 7 ounces (200 grams) ground pork
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 scallion, minced
- Trim the stems off the eggplants and then slice enough off the bottom of each eggplant off so that they can sit upright without falling over.
- Use a peeler to peel away alternating stripes in the skin. Slice the eggplants in half from side-to-side. Carve out some of the eggplant to make a bowl, but leave about 1 inch (2.5cm) of eggplant around the sides.
- In a small bowl, combine the hatcho miso, mirin, sake and sugar and mash together until they form a smooth sauce.
- Heat a pot with 2-3-inches of oil until it reaches 340 degrees F. Prepare a paper towel lined wire rack.
- Fry the eggplant, turning periodically for about 2-3 minutes or until a skewer easily passes through the bottom of each cup.
- Drain the eggplant cups upside-down, gently patting away any excess oil.
- Add the oil and ginger into a sauté pan, and fry until the ginger is fragrant. Add the pork and stir-fry, breaking up the clumps until the pork is cooked.
- Drain any excess oil from the pork and then add the miso sauce. Cook until the miso forms a shiny glaze coating each crumb of meat.
- Divide the pork between the 4 eggplant cups and top with the minced scallions.
This recipe was originally posted on PBS Food.