How to Cook With a Japanese Eggplant

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Eggplant, like most vegetables, can be cooked and incorporated into countess dishes in myriad ways. Roasted, grilled, sautéed, boiled, stewed; the list is endless. Eggplants are found in the culinary repertoire of cultures all around the world. There are as many varieties of eggplants as there are ways to prepare them. The Japanese eggplant is a thin-skinned sweet variety, similar to the Italian or Chinese eggplant. They can be used interchangeably in just about any recipe involving eggplants.

  • Clean, peel and cut the eggplant. Thoroughly clean the eggplant in cool water and pat dry. Peeling is not completely necessary as the Japanese eggplant has very thin skin. But if your recipe calls for peeled eggplant, remove the skin in a strip pattern rather than removing it wholly. Leaving a bit of skin adds flavor and color to the dish. Cut, slice, or cube the eggplant according to your recipe (strips, cubes, halves, etc.)

  • Salt the eggplant to prevent the absorption of oil during cooking. One of the biggest deterrents that keep many people from attempting the use of eggplant in cooking is the sponge-like property of the eggplant's flesh; whatever the eggplant is cooked in will be immediately absorbed, including oil. Oil-soaked eggplant does not bode well for healthy eating. Salting an eggplant deflates the air chambers within the flesh that are responsible for the absorption. To salt, place the cut eggplant in a strainer or colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit one hour. Thoroughly rinse the eggplant to get all the salt off and gently squeeze dry. Let dry on a paper towel.

  • Grill the eggplant. Brush cubed or halved eggplants that have already been salted and dried with olive oil. Place on the grill over a medium-heat fire. Eggplant is not a vegetable that can be served al-dente, so grill for about 5 minutes and check for softness. When it is soft all the way through, it is done. You can used grilled eggplant in a variety of dishes, including dips, salsas, salads, or as a side dish with a little salt and pepper.

  • Fry cubed or shredded eggplant in a stir-fry or rice dish. Japanese eggplant is among the best variety of eggplants to stir fry as they are quick cooking and only need a few minutes alone in the oil. To fry, heat the oil in a wok or frying pan until very hot. Add the eggplants in a thin layer (do not pile them up). Using tongs or a spatula, turn them often and cook for only 1 to 2 minutes or until they have reached a golden brown color. Using a slotted spoon, remove them and let them drain on a paper towel. Add the fried eggplant to a sti- fry, fried rice, soup, or any dish that calls for fried eggplant.

  • Roast whole eggplants either in the oven or on the barbecue. To roast in the oven, skewer or cut in several places (drain holes) and place on a baking tray. Do not peel if roasting whole. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it is tender when poked and looks as if it is about to collapse, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool. Peel off the skin, and drain the flesh in a colander. Use in any salad, soup, or plain with salt. To grill a whole eggplant, poke steam holes and grill over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Removed the charred peel and drain the excess water.

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