“Success with this dish depends first of all on finding very small, round (not skinny) eggplants, no longer than 3 inches (8 cm). The eggplants are cut and twisted in such a way that are reminiscent of the bamboo whisks used in tea ceremony. Utilizing the shape, color, and flavor of the eggplant, this dish is as delicious as it is novel.” — Chasen-Nasu Su-age/Tea-Whisk Eggplants recipe, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, By Shizuo Tsuji
Some time ago, I found an amazing idea to serve tea-whisk eggplants for Halloween. They do look like witches! They also taste great. I played with the recipe a lot. Larger, up to 5-6″ long eggplants work just as well, if cooked longer. I also found steaming scored eggplants first, and adding flavor by marinating second gives delicious results. Your choice of flavor combinations could be inspired by your favorite cuisine and local ingredients — Mediterranean, Latin American, etc. Eggplants are magical. There are eggplant recipes in almost every cuisine in the world. Eggplants can be transformed into a delicacy by applying almost any cooking method: simmering, steaming, frying, deep-frying, stir-frying, baking, roasting, charring, drying, marinating, fermenting… They can be cooked savory and sweet. Their flavor is very meaty and full of umami. Eggplants ARE magical. Serve them shaped as witches this Halloween!
Ingredients for dashi can be found in asian stores: katsuobusi (dry bonito fish flakes) and kombu (dry kelp). The process of making dashi is similar to steeping tea, only we extract complex ocean-born umami flavors. No boiling, just slow gentle simmering.
Fill a small pot with cold water. Cut dry combu and place it in cold water.
Bring to simmering on low heat, uncovered. It should take no less than 20 minutes. Kombu will become slippery, thick, soft, and pliable. The water will be slightly ocean flavored and thickened by agents released from the seaweed. Remove kombu. Discard it or reserve for steeping the "second" dashi.
Add katsuobusi (dry bonito fish flakes) and slowly bring to simmering on low heat, turn off, cover with lid, and let it steep for about 10 minutes. Strain dashi and it is ready to use. You can keep it refrigerated for up to 3 days.
for simmering eggplants
Mix all ingredients for simmering broth.
Wash eggplants and trim their stems to desired length. Score each eggplant from bottom to below the stem at 1/16" (3mm) intervals, 1/8" (6-7mm) deep.
Place scored eggplants in the cold simmering broth, cover with a small plate to make sure they are fully emerged in the liquid, and bring to simmering on medium heat. Lower heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, till soft.
When cooked, hold each eggplant vertically at the top, press it down and twist to separate the scoring and to form a witch shape. Eggplants can be cooked in advance, shaped, covered with food wrap, and refrigerated till serving. Depending on number of servings, use microwave or oven to reheat them.
for miso compound butter
Mix mix butter and miso, shape portions, and refrigerate.
Cook black imperial rice and mix it with 2 tbsp of miso butter. Keep warm.
Reheat dashi and eggplants. Arrange and serve with 1 tbsp of soft miso butter on top of hot rice and sprinkled with chives flowers.