Monday, January 7, 2013

Japanese Eggplant (Say Hello To My Little Friend)

I probably wouldn’t have started the M3V Project with this particular dish, but it was that horrible week between Christmas and New Year when it is practically impossible to live (or cook) normally. My husband suggested Japanese Eggplant and when I agreed, it was because I secretly thought he was going to cook it.
I had completely forgotten – before I even started – the main reason for this blog (ie that I am meant to cook my way through an entire cookbook).

Here is what the picture in the book looks like:

Original images were taken by Jason Thomas

Here is what mine ended up looking like.

It looks EXACTLY like the one in the book

It was actually quite a process to get it looking this bad.

According to the blurb ‘the flavours in this dish complement each other perfectly, with the soft and mild eggplant taking on the taste of the other ingredients’. This ended up being absolutely true. It was just a pity I didn’t actually use the ingredients suggested.

Something here doesn't belong in a Japanese dish

The recipe used a number of typical Japanese ingredients including sake, soy sauce and fresh ginger and garlic.I had every intention of using sake. I even went to the bottle shop to buy a bottle, but when they told me the only one they had was $30, I baulked at the thought of spending that much on two tablespoons of rice juice.
I would have quite happily drunk the rest – I don’t mind a drop of sake, even if it does taste like vegemite. But considering my usual tipple costs about $10 a bottle, spending three times that much to flavour some eggplants (not my favourite veg) seemed extravagant.

I thought I remembered reading something once that suggested you could use sherry in place of sake. I may have made that up. Anyway, I tipped in what was left of my McWilliams Sweet Sherry in place of the sake, and you know what? The recipe was right! The eggplant DID take on the taste of the other ingredients, unfortunately it was mainly the sherry.
While the original recipe suggests stuffing the chicken mince filling into the baby eggplants, dusting them with cornflour and then deep frying them, it ALSO suggested a ‘healthier’ option would be to slice a large eggplant thinly, and then sandwich the filling between two pieces before cooking in a sandwich press.

Eggplants looks pretty silly, I think

We went with option number two. Boo Boom (fail!). As soon as I dropped the sandwich press down, the filling oozed out the sides and made in it into a little eggplant circle with a chicken burger surrounding it like a halo of sherry-spiked goodness. It tasted strange, and it looked even stranger.

I'm pretty sure this isn't what the authors had in mind

I then tried cooking it on the sandwich press without actually closing the lid, but this just resulted in raw chicken and a few complaints from the gallery (‘Mummy, what are you cooking? It smells like pancakes’).

Finally, my husband took pity and suggested I cook the little eggplanty sandwiches in a frypan with a lid on. Finally success.  Sort of. They still looked terrible and still tasted of old-lady sherry.

Was I just flogging a dead horse by now?

There was also a bit of a drama when I wandered off to refill my glass of champagne: ‘Mummy! Something’s on fire!’

You're right dear, it's your mother's love for these new stemless glasses

Eventually, we had half a dozen finished Japanese Eggplants ready to serve.  The dashi based dressing really made the dish.

I blame my husband

My Thoughts
I strongly suggest NOT using sherry instead of the sake. I strongly suggest leaving sherry to fruit cake and old ladies.

I would actually like to try this dish if it were made according to the recipe.  It’s probably something you shouldn’t attempt at home, but leave it to the (Japanese) professionals.

Not a very auspicious start.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to find more out about the recipe.

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