The final installment of ‘Eggplants Around the World’ is this crispy Japanese Eggplant Tempura. In Japanese cuisine, Dengaku refers to anything glazed in miso and grilled. Usually tempura dipping sauce is very thin and light, but I think a thick Dengaku miso glaze goes perfectly with the mellow eggplant. Tradition be damned!
The key to a light tempura batter is to use a lower gluten flour, (like cake flour, or specific tempura flour) use ice cold water, and stir the batter as little as possible with a chop stick. Because of these efforts to make such an incredibly light batter, you barely even noticed you are eating a deep fried food. But you are. And it is totally worth the smell in your kitchen for the next 24 hours.
Eggplant Tempura with Dengaku Sauce
enough oil to fill a medium frying pan about 3/4″ deep (peanut oil works well)
1 japanese or chinese eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 1/4 cup sparkling ice water
1 cup tempura flour or cake flour
2 tsp miso paste
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs coconut sugar or brown sugar
2-4 drops sesame oil (I like the chili-infused kind)
2 tsp mirin
Makes the sauce first. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir well until the sugar and miso are dissolved. Set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat. The goal is to get it to about 360 degrees but if you don’t have a thermometer, you can drop a tiny bit of batter into the oil, if it sinks it’s not hot enough, it should hover just under the surface and float up as it cooks.
I kept my sparkling water cold in a mixing bowl by adding a couple ice cubes. Gently sprinkle the 1 cup of flour over the bowl of water. Using a chopstick, stir the mixture gently until JUST combined. There will be very big lumps left, that’s what you want. Just get all the flour ‘wetted’ and then stop stirring.
Have a plate lined with paper towel near by. Add the sliced eggplant to the bowl of batter and submerge them so they are thoroughly coated.
In small batches, use a fork to carefully lower the eggplant slices into the hot oil. Mine were ready to flip in about 20 seconds, but make sure you can see the batter around the edges just starting to turn gold, then flip them and fry for about 10- 15 more seconds. Carefully lift them out with a fork and put them on the paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Continue in small batches until all the eggplant is fried.
Serve immediately with Dengaku sauce.
And that concludes our ‘Eggplants Around the World’ series. We covered Morocco, India, and Japan. For even more eggplant recipes from around the world (or at least my vegan American renditions of them) check out the following:
Ratatouille from France
Sticky Szechwan Eggplant from Southwest China
Baba Ganoush from Mediterranean
Spaghetti with Eggplant Mushroom Meatballs from Italy