Steamed eggplants (aubergines) with spicy peanut sauce

[From the archives: This eggplant/aubergine dish is really nice served cold, though it can be served warm too. It doesn't heat up the kitchen since it's made in the microwave (yes, the microwave, and it works great!) so it's great to make on a steamy hot summer evening, with in-season eggplant. Originally published July 2007.]

nasu-peanut1.jpgHere is another summer dish. I love eggplants (aubergines), but cooking them without using a lot of oil can be a bit tricky. I read about this method of steam-cooking eggplants in the microwave in a Japanese magazine some time ago, and ever since it's one of my favorite ways of preparing these rather spongy vegetables - they're done in just 5 minutes without heating up the kitchen, which is hard to beat on a hot summer's day. The whole dish takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Here they are served cold with a spicy peanut sauce, which makes it a very nice vegetarian/vegan main dish. Serve with rice or cold noodles.

nasu-peanut2.jpg

Microwave-steamed eggplants (aubergines) with spicy peanut sauce

This makes two servings as a side dish, or one main vegan dish.

  • 4 slim Asian style eggplants (aubergines)
  • 2 Tbs. chunky style peanut butter (or more if you want it very peanutty)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. mirin
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili paste (Korean chili paste, or Harisa. If you don't have chili paste you can add some dry chili powder)

Peel the eggplants with a vegetable peeler. Take off the tops. Wrap each one loosely in microwave-safe plastic wrap and place in a circular pattern around the edges of a round plate. Place the plate in the microwave on the rotating plate and microwave on high for about 5 minutes. (If you don't have a rotating plate in your microwave, nuke on high for 2 1/2 minutes, then turn the plate about halfway and nuke for an additional 2 1/2 minutes.)

In the meantime, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a small pan; bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar and amalgamate everything, then let cool. Make ready a large bowl of cold water.

Once the eggplants are soft, carefully drop them, plastic and all, into the bowl of cold water so they rapidly cool. Take them out of the water and take off the plastic; drain the eggplants if necessary.

Cut them on the diagonal into bitesize pieces and arrange them on a plate with some green garnish (here I've used shiso leaves). If you've made them in advance, chill in the refrigerator until it's time to eat.

To serve, spoon the peanut sauce over the eggplant. Mix well with the sauce to eat.

Notes

  • The microwave steaming method works best with slim Asian style eggplants, but you can use the big Western style ones too - just cut them up into large cubes, and adjust the microwaving time.
  • The eggplants are peeled because the skins turn rather dark and grey-looking when steamed like this. The peel can be used in another dish if you want to be frugal.

Comments

(longtime lurker--Hi!)

I made your kaeshi recipe a month or so ago, and it's been a lifesaver this summer. Thank you so much!

What is the texture of the eggplants when they're steamed? I love Asian eggplants (and have 3 ripening in my garden right now), and this recipe looks terrific for a quick summer meal with some zarusoba. But I can't handle really slimy foods--tororo imo over rice just about did me in. :)

The texture is soft, but not slimy - since eggplant doesn't have the slimy-substance. Try it and see if you like it! The beauty of the nuking method is you can just try one eggplant as a test (reduce the nuking time) if you wanted to!

I never thought about how oily most eggplant dishes are and didn't know they could be steamed! Thanks for sharing!

Hi Maki

I know just what you mean about eggplants being a fat sponge. I don't use them much because of this, and have been meaning to try some other methods I heard about, including steaming.
But Maki, there is something almost obscene about the eggplants in that image!!

Christine

Hi Maki,

Another great one! Cant wait to try these. I was just watching NHKs show last week, and it was all about steaming things in the microwave. Who knew! And eggplants are just so delicious in Japan right now.

Now I just have to figure out which wrap is microwave safe.

Jill

Thanks Maki! I tried this today and it was yummy. I must be one of the 8 people in London without a microwave, so I steamed it with water in a non-stick pan over low heat on the hob. (Un)fortunately I got distracted so bits of it got slightly browned, just caramelised where the eggplant was in contact with the pan. Those golden bits turned out the nicest!

Hi Maki,

I made these this morning. They were great.

Do you think I could use miso in place of the peanut butter? (I loved the peanut butter, but just for variation).

Jill

Jill, if you use miso instead, you may need to adjust it a bit since miso is quite salty of course. You could use a standard 'dengaku' sauce recipe which calls for about 2 Tbs. miso, 1 Tbs. sugar (I use natural cane sugar or brown sugar), and 1 Tbs. mirin, gently simmered together with a bit of water so that it all melts. Alternatively you can try sesame paste - either Japanese nerigoma, or tahini (instead of the peanut butter).

Hi Maki,

Thanks for the miso dengaku sauce recipe. I might try that. Thanks also for the great idea with tahini! I have a question about that actually. (This is the last one I promise!). (Well on this recipe at least). Are tahini and nerigoma the same thing? I have always wondered, and most Japanese people don`t know tahini, so it is hard to ask them.

Thanks so much,
Jill

Nerigoma usually starts out with rather well toasted sesame seeds, and is a bit rougher in texture than tahini. I'm not sure if tahini sesame seeds are toasted first, and it's much smoother. You can use nerigoma in a hummus recipe quite successfully for example - and since (for me anyway) tahini is much more accessible and cheaper, I use that in a lot of Japanese recipes that call for nerigoma. Hope that helps!.

I've made the peanut sauce twice now and each time it's turned out to be pastier than what it looks like in your picture. I can't figure out why. Also, it's quite salty. Do you use low sodium soy sauce? Otherwise, I love the peanuty taste with the eggplant.

grace

I answered my own questions by reading through the recipe again. I realized that I wasn't heating up the mixture on the stove, which explains the pasty consistency. I can't wait to make this recipe correctly!

grace

Grace, I am using a no-salt added 'organic' peanut butter, which may make a difference. So you may want to adjust the soy sauce amount a bit if it's too salty (add a little, taste, add more if needed). You can thin out the sauce if needed with a tiny bit of water too.

I found your blog via a link from cookingcute.com, and I'm glad I did. I'm enjoying reading through the recipes.

What a great way to use summer eggplant. Around here it's hard to find affordable asian eggplant, but many local farms sell a variety called "Pixie" eggplant: they are small and slim, with marbled white-and-light-purple skins, much lighter than the eggplants I used to get in Japan.

My fave eggplant dish is moussaka but this sounds like a fab dish too. But moussaka is very much a winter food and very labour intensive!

We'd like to invite you to participate in our July berry recipe contest. All competitors will be placed on our blogroll, and the winner will receive a fun prize! Please email me, haleyglasco@gmail.com, if you're interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details: http://blog.keyingredient.com/2008/06/06/key-ingredient-cooks-kitchen-re...

Thanks,
Haley
KI Blogger

is there something i can use in place of mirin? it's kind of difficult to find in groceries in the philippines. tia.

You can use any kind of sweet wine or rice wine, such as sweet sherry, shiaoxing wine from Chine, and so on.

I don't have a microwave! How long do you think they would take to steam over some boiling water on the hob?

Hey there! I swear these past couple of months it seems most of my meals come from your sites (I've been studying abroad in Japan and enjoying the opportunity to cook as many Japanese dishes as possible while i have access to the ingredients)

At anyrate I used this method to cook a little Japanese eggplant for tossing into my vacuum packet curry sauce (I know, I know, but what can I say? I've been doing research all day) and I decided to leave the skin on. The interesting thing is the color of the skin didn't change! I was still beautiful purple. ^^

Maki,
This looks like a great recipe! How well would it work for bento? Do you think eggplants would freeze well?
Redowa

Hi! I was looking for a recipe for tahini, this was really helpful but I was wondering if you could mix the peanut butter and the tahini?

Is there a way to steam the eggplants without using plastic wrap? Leave them in their skins maybe? Or in a covered dish?

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