Nasu no agebitashi is a vibrant and flavourful dish made with tender deep fried eggplant soaked in a rich dashi broth. This addictive side dish is packed with flavour and can be made with a variety of different vegetables!
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What is nasu agebitashi?
Agebitashi (揚げ浸し) refers to a cooking method in which ingredients are deep-fried in oil and then soaked in a seasoned broth to soak up the flavors. The most common agebitashi is made with "nasu", the Japanese word for "eggplant" (or aubergine). Eggplant is deep-fried for a short time over a medium heat and soaked in a dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce and mirin.
This dish is served chilled and recommended in summer, when eggplant is in season and you can appreciate it at it's best.
Eggplant in Japan
Eggplant is thought to have originated from Eastern India, but it is one of the most popular vegetables in modern Japan. In fact, it's one of my favourite vegetables of all time.
The first eggplant in Japan is thought to have come from China and it is believed that eggplant was already being cultivated in Japan during the Nara period (710-794).
The "Complete Book of Agriculture" from the Edo Period (1603-1868) describes that "there are three colors: purple, white, and blue, and there are round and long varieties," indicating that many varieties had been cultivated since this period.
Eggplant varieties in Japan are diverse, with more than 70 varieties thought to exist throughout the country.
In my recipe I use long Japanese eggplant which is long, thin and slightly sweeter than other kinds of eggplant. Chinese or Italian eggplants also work well for this recipe.
Ingredients to make nasu no agebitashi at home
Nasu no agebitashi is a tasty side dish made up of two main parts; the fried eggplant and the broth. It can also be garnished with various toppings.
As I mentioned earlier, sweet varieties of eggplant work best for this dish. I recommend using one of the following:
- Japanese eggplant (which I use in this recipe)
- Chinese eggplant
- Italian eggplant
These varieties are also tend to be slightly smaller than other types of eggplant which makes it easier to ensure every piece has skin on without being cut too thick.
Agebitashi is nothing without it's delicious broth! Here are the ingredients I use to make nasu no agebitashi broth:
Use kombu and/or shiiitake dashi to make it suitable for vegetarians. I have a vegetarian awase dashi recipe here.
Finally, I like to top my agebitashi with one (or all of!) the following:
- Grated daikon radish
- Chopped spring onion
- Grated ginger (optional)
- Katsuobushi (bonito flakes - optional)
- Ooba leaves (perilla leaves - optional)
Other ingredients used in agebitashi
Eggplant is great for soaking up flavours and is the most commonly used vegetable for agebitashi, however it can also be made with:
- Shishito peppers
- Piman (bell peppers)
- Kabocha (Japanese squash/pumpkin)
- Gobo (burdock root)
- Renkon (lotus root)
- Bamboo shoots
You can try making agebitashi with a mixture of different vegetables! Keep in mind that frying times vary depending on the texture and thickness of each vegetable.
Instructions on how to make nasu no agebitashi
Although this dish requires deep frying, it's pretty straightforward to make. I also have a few tips and tricks to share to stop it from being overly oily.
Make the sauce
As agebitashi is served chilled, it's best to make the broth first so it has time to cool down. Add dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and finely chopped chili pepper to a small sauce pan. Bring it to a boil on a medium heat and allow it to bubble for 1 minute. Take it off the heat and then leave it to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Score the skin of the eggplants
The first step is to cut off the top stem, cut in half lengthways and then make shallow, diagonal cuts across the skin. We do this so that the dashi broth can be absorbed on the skin side as well as the flesh side.
Cut the eggplant
Depending on the size of the eggplant, you can cut it into halves (like above), thirds or quarters. Essentially, each piece should be a bit bigger than bitesize as it shrinks and softens when it's deep fried.
Heat the oil to 170°C (340°F) and then add the eggplant with the skin side down. Fry for 1 minute, then turn it over and continue to fry for another minute, 2 minutes in total.
Place the eggplant in the oil with the skin side down first, this will prevent the flesh from getting too oily.
Wash off the excess oil
Once you've finished frying, place the vegetables in a colander or sieve over a heatproof bowl and pour freshly boiled water over them. This will remove any excess oil without losing the flavour from the deep frying. It also prevents oil from leaking out into your dashi broth.
Soak and chill
Place the deep fried eggplant (and any other vegetables you might add) into the broth. Use a container that allows the ingredients to be fully submerged. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
Place in individual serving bowls or one large bowl for help yourself style, then garnish with grated daikon radish and finely chopped spring onion. I also like to add sliced ooba (shiso / perilla leaves) and katsuobushi for more flavour but they are optional!
This dish will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge so feel free to make a larger batch.
Agebitashi is one of my favourite ways to enjoy eggplant, I hope you like it too!Print