But isn’t kabayaki dish with eels? Kabayaki is a Japanese preparation method popularly associated with eels. You butterfly the eel, dip in “sweet soy sauce” and cook under the broiler to caramelize the sugars in the sauce and give the eel a glossy and sticky finish.
In this recipe, eggplant takes the place of eel to make a delicious non-meat dish. It makes a delightful main course for vegetarians. For omnivores, it’s a great a side dish that will go beautifully with grilled fish, meat or poultry.
For best results, use Asian eggplants which are sweet and leave no bitter aftertaste. Do not skip the microwaving part because the eggplants need to have softened a bit before they are butterflied.
Note that we use a 1000W microwave oven. If yours has a lower wattage, you may need to extend the microwave time of your eggplants.
So, what’s with the sweet soy sauce? Just add sugar to soy sauce and that’s it? There are many ways to tweak the “sweet soy sauce” but the simplest is to use teriyaki sauce as a base. One part soy sauce, one part sake and one part mirin. If the sweetness of the two rice wines isn’t enough for your palate, add sugar.
- 2 large Asian eggplants
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 teaspoon sugar - (optional)
- Cut off and discard the tops and bottoms of the eggplants. Peel the eggplants.
- Place the peeled eggplants in a microwaveable bowl and cover with cling wrap. Microwave on HIGH for one minute.
- Place the eggplants on a cutting board and cut each horizontally into halves.
- Butterfly the eggplants, kabayaki-style. Slit each eggplant half down on the middle but without cutting all the way through. Open up the eggplant and make a similar slit along the left and right portions.
- Butterfly the rest of the eggplant halves.
- Pour the soy sauce, mirin and sake (and sugar, if using) into a shallow pan. Set on the stove over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
- Arrange the butterflied eggplants in the pan in a single layer, cut side down.
- Cook the eggplants until softened but not mushy, and the sauce has been soaked up.
- Serve the kabayaki-style eggplants over hot rice.