Richness reimagined

Learn to make nasu-den from Shiki Japanese Restaurant



Kate Melton

If you’re looking for authentic Japanese fare, look no further than Shiki. The one-room restaurant on South Clinton Avenue has been in business since 2004 and, although unassuming from the outside, it’s usually packed with customers to cozy capacity.

The nasu-den was the first thing I ever ordered off the menu. It’s a savory eggplant appetizer that’s deep fried, broiled, and topped with a creamy brown miso sauce.

“We sell a lot of it,” says manager Manami Kuruta, one of the friendly faces to greet you at the door. “Some people even eat it for dessert because of its richness and sweetness.” The softness of the eggplant is tender and easy to scoop and eat with a spoon. The eggplant skin gets crispy so that you can tear the skin and use it to help with the scooping.

I had the pleasure of going into the kitchen with chef/owner Shigeru Tanaka to watch him prepare the dish. His recipe is much like traditional Japanese nasu dengaku, which has the same basic ingredients, with the eggplant sliced lengthwise instead of crosswise.
Tanaka opened Shiki after coming to the United States and is part of a small but mighty team that serves lunch and dinner six days a week. Their robust lineup of affordable and delicious sushi rolls, entrees, and appetizers like this have made it a staple of Rochester’s food scene.

 

Here is how to make nasu-den in your own kitchen:

1.
Wash an eggplant and cut it crosswise into round slices about one inch thick.

2.
Use the knife to slice around (but not all the way through) the area next to the skin. Then score the eggplant in a criss-cross pattern on the front, cutting most of the way through, but not piercing through the other side. This will help it to cook thoroughly when fried.

3.
Deep frying: Submerge the eggplant slices into a deep fryer with vegetable oil heating to 350 degrees F for about ten minutes. You know they are ready when there is some browning and the center is softened but still firm to the touch.
Note: If you don’t have a deep fryer, follow steps 1, 2, and 4 and put your slices under the broiler on high until the eggplant has cooked through.

4.
For the sauce: Combine equal amounts of white miso and red miso sauce. Add sweet rice wine and sugar to desired sweetness. Use a spoon to scoop a spoonful of sauce onto each slice of eggplant and spread it on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

5.
Put your eggplant slices onto a baking pan and place the pan under the broiler on high. Cook until the eggplant has browned. Serve with a spoon.

 

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