Hatcho, awase, and saikyo miso sauces jazz up juicy stir-fried eggplant. Make just one, or make all three–it’s up to you!
Are there any foods you hated as a kid that as an adult, you’ve come to love? To me, the ultimate example of this is eggplant. When I was little, the very word conjured an image of a soggy, unappetizing mess, complete with my mom’s nagging exhortations of “but it’s so good for you!” I can’t pinpoint when exactly that changed, but I can tell you why. Unlike the bulbous eggplants I grew up with, properly cooked Asian eggplant is juicy, tender, and deliciously savory. If you think you hate eggplant and you haven’t tried it fried in a generous amount of oil, you might just change your mind.
Onto the recipe. This dish is inspired by Sakagura, a surprisingly hip restaurant located in the basement of a nondescript office building in Midtown NYC. Sakagura stands out against New York’s endless landscape of ramen and sushi joints not only for its namesake sake bar, but for its mouthwatering selection of the fried, grilled, stewed, and steamed delights that too often go overlooked on Japanese menus. Of the many dishes we tried, my favorite was the seemingly humble nasu dengaku: tender-grilled Japanese eggplant served with a trio of miso sauces.
As it happens, my fridge also contains a trio of misos: hearty hatcho (made from pure soybeans), sweet saikyo (a delicate white with lower salt content), and all-purpose awase (a widely applicable blend of red and white). Rooftop grilling is out of the question during the frosty NYC winter, so I decided to create my own spin on Sakagura’s dish using my beloved wok. Phil and I were split on our favorite of the three sauces, so if you give it a shot, let us know which one tickled your taste buds.