Nasu no miso ni

It's totally out of season right now, but even during inappropriate times of year I can't resist nasu-no miso-ni.

Unseasonble Nasu-no miso-ni

There are as many ways to make it as there are mothers in Japan. Northern Japanese versions tend to be salty, western Japanese ones tend to be almost sweet.

I'm somewhere in the middle, though I'd say my I was pleasantly suprised by one that a friend's mother made in Ube, Yamaguchi prefecture many years ago, and it made me realize that the variation I had been making was heavily influenced by the recipe author's Akita heritage.

Ever since that Yamaguchi experience, I've added a tiny bit more sugar, a bit more mirin, and a little less miso to my version of this dish.

This time I made the dish with tiny Indian eggplants that remind me of the eggplant of Kyoto, or Kyo-nasu. They're only two or three inches (5-8cm) long.

I gently rub the lengthwise-quartered eggplants with a little salt, let them rest a few minutes, then briefly soak in water to remove any aku. I then add the eggplants to a hot pan with a little vegetable oil, trying to partially sear the flesh. I then add miso, sugar, mirin, and a little soup stock, and braise until the eggplant is thoroughly coated. You can adjust proportions to taste; I like both salty and sweet-savory variations.

Some variations of nasu-no miso-ni actually involve deep frying the salted eggplant, which is great, but unnecessary if the eggplant is slightly seared. It's a little trickier to get the timing right if you use a saute pan, but probably uses a bit less oil.

Frequently you'd top this dish with a few sprinkles of sesame seeds (either black or white will do), but when I ate this I had at least two other sesame flavored dishes, so I skipped it. You can eat it all right away, like the more general category of nimono it actually improves a bit with a day or two in the refrigerator.

In Japan, people consider the best time for eggplant to be early fall... Of course, it's usually primarily a summer vegetable in Europe, the US and most of China. I often try to find my way to Japan in September just so I can eat aki-nasu, or fall eggplant.

(OK, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration... but no, it's truly worth it).

 

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