If you tasted this blindfolded, you would have a hard time guessing that it’s a vegan dish. That’s how extremely rich and intensely delicious nasu dengaku is. The perfect proof that vegetables can taste amazing.
What is it and how does it taste
Nasu is Japanese for eggplant. Dengaku refers to the cooking method of slowly glazing food while roasting, broiling or grilling. This can be done on the fire over coals, in the oven, or under the broiler.
So, Nasu Dengaku will translate to glazed eggplant. a Delicious Traditional Japanese dish that requires minimal effort and ingredients to prepare.
Some people might know sweet miso glaze as den miso, made popular in the West by Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa from Nobu restaurant where it is used in the famous den miso roasted black cod dish.
Miso is a salty fermented soy bean paste made by mixing cooked soybeans with rice koji(special moulded rice), salt and letting it ferment for months.
I make my own miso from scratch from various other things like beans, lentils and split peas. It’s an easy process but it takes time. For the purpose of this recipe and to make it quick, we will use store-bought Shiro miso.
Once roasted and nicely glazed, the eggplant will be soft all the way through with slightly sticky delightful edges and have a lovely nutty, salty and deep caramel taste.
It’s simple recipes like this, with huge flavour that makes cooking with eggplant easy, nutritious and delicious.
- Eggplant - You can get any eggplant you like but, pick ones that are firm, not oversized for its kind, and not bruised. Oversized eggplant will be watery and when it comes to glazing it, the water will dilute the glaze and it will have a hard time caramelising. Not to mention the texture will be mushy too.
- Den miso glaze - I don’t know if any stores stock this ready-made but, it’s easy to make and all you will need for that is miso paste, sake or white wine if you can't get hold of sake, mirin or sweet white wine if you can't find that, and sugar. Those ingredients are easily found in most stores.
- Scallions/spring onion (optional) - This is basically as a little finishing touch. Totally optional but the gentle onion taste goes extremely well with the sweet rich savouriness of the caramelised eggplant.
- Toasted sesame seeds(optional) - Adds an extra layer of flavour and texture to something already perfect. Why not make it double perfect.
How to make it
There are two golden rules to roasting, broiling or baking the perfect eggplant. Don’t let it burn and don’t undercook it. There are few vegetables as unpleasant as, raw or burnt eggplant. But, I will show you how to cook it perfectly all the time, so you can impress yourself and others.
The miso glaze
What you need:
- 50g(ml)(3 ⅓ tbsp) sake or white wine
- 50g(ml)(3 ⅓ tbsp) mirin or sweet white wine
- 150g(⅗ cup) white miso paste(Shiro miso)
- 75g(⅓ cup) brown sugar
Mix it all together in a small saucepan and slowly simmer while whisking for about 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and slightly thickened.
Cooking the eggplant
- Start by cutting the eggplant in half length-ways. Remove a small part of the rounded bottoms on each half. This will make them stable and standstill. Instead of a wobble about and causing your miso glaze to run off. Score or criss-cross cut the inside open part taking care not to cut the skin and not to make these cuts too deep. 2mm deep is good.
- Heat the oven to 200C or 392F. If you plan on broiling these then heat up the broiler and either way, get a baking tray ready for transferring the eggplant halves onto, once the next step is done. If you want to barbecue them make sure the coals are hot and you have a wire grill basket.
- Heat a large frying pan with a touch of cooking oil. Fry the eggplant halves until nicely browned on both cut sides. Place onto the baking tray or baking sheet and generously brush with the miso glaze. Do not use all of it at once as we will re-glaze a few times during cooking.
- If you are baking/roasting in the oven then cook for about 15-20 minutes until the eggplant is completely cooked and re-glazing every 5 minutes while cooking so that it has a nice sticky caramelised surface. Baking in the oven is the easiest and most foolproof way. Broiling and grilling on the barbecue require a bit more skill but, if you feel ambitious then try it that way.
- If you are broiling, then make sure the broiler is low at first so that the eggplant can cook through before the glaze starts to burn. When they are cooked fully, turn up the broiler and move the eggplant closer to the heat. About 10 cm or 4 inches should be good. Re-glaze 3 times every 30 seconds making sure not to burn them. Our equipment differs, so use common sense when cooking these. Your broiler might be more powerful or weaker than mine and the cooking times might be different.
- If you are barbecuing these then make sure you cook it low and slow until the eggplant is fully cooked. As with the broiling, move them closer to hot coals and glaze at short intervals until they are nicely caramelised.
- To serve you just sprinkle some finely sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds on them and go for it. Enjoy! Meshiagare!
This recipe is a classic in Japanese cuisine. If you change it it's another dish all together but, few things are set in stone and eggplant is a versatile vegetable to cook with. So, let's look at how you can change things up a bit.
- The glaze - You don't have to use den miso to glaze eggplant. Swap it out for a Western version like BBQ sauce or other Japanese glazing sauces like teriyaki or unagi.
- Shape - You can cut the eggplant into smaller bite-sized pieces for oven roasting or skewer on metal skewers when cooking on the barbecue.
- Toppings - Change the scallions to chives or other herbs like chopped cilantro. The sesame can be replaced with crispy fried shallots or roasted crushed peanuts or even dukkah.
Obviously this goes great with barbecue dishes but it also lends itself extremely well to simple less intense flavours, and the contrast can make delicious meals.
- With meat dishes - Like crispy pork belly, lamb koftas, ribeye steak, pork chops or chicken breast.
- Fish or seafood - Like pan-seared salmon fillet or roasted angelfish.
- With other vegetables - Like roasted carrots, steamed spinach or whole roasted cauliflower.
- Together with other side dishes - Like silky smooth mashed potatoes or creamed spinach or perfectly fluffy rice.
- As an appetiser - With roasted red peppers and tapenade or Moroccan spiced couscous.
Other recipes you might like
If you like Asian flavours or looking for ways to properly cook vegetables you will find the following recipes useful:
- Shrimp Massaman curry
- Homemade Sriracha hot sauce
- Thai spiced roasted cashews
- Thai style beef koftas
- 7 ways to cook broccoli
- What is bok choy and how to cook it
- Michelin star mashed potatoes
Useful equipment for this recipe
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