Korean Style Steamed Eggplant with a Twist
One of the few ways I like to consume eggplant is a traditional Korean side dish called Gaji-Namul. It’s steamed eggplant topped with a spicy soy-scallion sauce. This side dish is served with almost every meal in a Korean household. It’s one of my favorites and I wanted to capture the flavor in a different way. However, first let’s talk about a variety of eggplant called Ichiban.
We planted a total of 8 eggplants this summer, three of them are the Japanese or Ichiban variety. You’d think with that many eggplants we would be up to our ears with them. Sadly, this is not the case. Those pretty eggplants pictured above came from my mother’s garden (she only has 2 plants). We have been plagued with flea beetles in the garden and they love to feast on eggplant leaves. As much as I love eggplant, I think after this year I will not longer grow them; I’ll just bum some off of my mom instead.
Ichiban is noted for it’s long, slender shape. Unlike the traditional eggplant, Ichiban has a thin skin with a sweet, mild flavor. They are warm weather loving annuals that can tolerate some cool temps. Often they continue producing well into the fall. They are very productive (well, that is if you do not have those blasted flea beetles eating the leaves) and grow well in containers. Once they start producing, you better find a way to eat them; which brings me to my eggplant dip!
Roasted not Steamed
I’m a firm believer that everything tastes better when roasted. Traditionally, the eggplant is steamed to make Gaji-Namul. Since many of my Korean dishes have a twist to them, I decided to forgo tradition ( I can see my mother frowning right now). I roasted the eggplant, chili pepper and garlic tossed with olive oil in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Korean/Chinese Chives aka Buchu
Scallions are the allium of choice in this dish. Since it’s mid-summer and hot, I do not have any growing in my garden. I decided to use chives, specifically a variety of Asian chives known in Korea as Buchu. They have a stronger garlic flavor than regular chives. The most noted characteristic about these chives are the flat leaves; they resemble a blade of grass. Of course, if you do not have Buchu any type of chive or scallion will make a good substitute.
How to Serve the Dip
Once the ingredients were cooked, it’s a matter of pureeing the veggies in a food processor. Add the chives on top with a drizzle of sesame seed oil and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with flat bread or rice crackers. It’s perfect for an appetizer or a mid-day snack.
- 4 medium Japanese eggplants
- 1 bunch of chives (or scallions), chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Chili pepper, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce (or more to taste)
- 2 Tablespoon of Sesame Oil
- pinch of salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Roughly chop up the eggplants (discard stem tops) and chili pepper.
- Lay the chopped eggplant, chili pepper and garlic on a cookie sheet and toss with the 2 tbs of olive oil. Roast in the oven until the eggplant is tender (about 15 minutes).
- Once tender, remove the cookie sheet from the oven.
- Puree the vegetables in a food processor until smooth. Add in a tablespoon of sesame seed oil, the soy sauce and half of the chives.
- Puree for a few more seconds until smooth.
- Salt and Pepper to taste.
- Serve in a bowl with the remaining tablespoon of sesame seed oil drizzled on top and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.