Why It Works
- Scoring the skin of the eggplant before broiling makes it easier to peel when cooked.
- Using a rack set in a quarter-sheet pan situates the eggplant closer to the broiler element, which chars the skin more quickly without overcooking the flesh.
Sometimes seen as an in-season special at yakitori places, this eggplant dish is almost as good when made using the broiler as it is hot off a grill, since the charred skin will impart a little smokiness even if you aren't using charcoal. That quality in the eggplant is accentuated by the slightly smoky katsuobushi, or flakes of cured, smoked, and dried bonito, and offset by the sliced scallions and spicy grated ginger.
- 2 whole Japanese eggplants or other slender eggplants (about 10 ounces total); see note
- 2 scallions, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
- Small handful (about 5g) katsuobushi (Japanese dried-bonito flakes), preferably the larger, feathery flakes called hanakatsuobushi; see note
- One 1/2-inch knob ginger, peeled and grated
- Soy sauce, for serving
To Prepare the Eggplant: Place oven rack in top position and preheat broiler. With the tip of a sharp knife, score the eggplants around their circumference at both the stem end and the globe end. Score the eggplants along their length 3 times. If you're using an eggplant that is slightly thicker than an inch (see note), score it 4 times along its length.
Place eggplants on a wire rack set in a sheet pan. Broil until eggplant skin darkens and begins to char a bit, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Rotate eggplants and cook the other side until skin has darkened and charred a bit all around and the flesh is giving but not mushy when you push on it with your finger, about 3 to 4 minutes longer.
Remove eggplants from oven and set aside until still warm but cool enough to handle (see note).
Peel eggplants, leaving stems attached, and cut each crosswise into 1/2-inch sections. Arrange on serving plates in a way that preserves the eggplants' natural shape, with the stem end at one end of the plate. Top with thinly sliced scallions and katsuobushi and place a small mound of grated ginger alongside. Serve with soy sauce on the side for each diner to pour over the eggplant, to taste.
Quarter-sheet tray, wire rack for quarter-sheet tray
Japanese eggplants are typically more slender than other varieties, usually no more than an inch in width. As a result, they're well suited for quick cooking. If you can't find Japanese eggplants, look for other thin varieties of eggplant, such as Chinese eggplant; the cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the variety you're using. Just be sure to cook the eggplant until it's giving but not totally collapsing—you want a little structural integrity, so that each chunk is easy to pick up with a pair of chopsticks.
Serving the eggplant hot is preferable, but it can be served at room temperature, too. While it's easier to peel the eggplant when it's hot, you can also peel it while just warm, and save yourself some burnt fingertips.
You can purchase katsuobushi at Japanese specialty stores, at some Asian supermarkets, and online. While it is atypical, I suggest using hanakatsuobushi, the larger, feathery flakes of katsuobushi, although any type will do.
This dish can easily be made on a grill instead of under the broiler.