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Grilling Japanese eggplants adds a layer of charred complexity to their mild sweetness. Paired with a sweet and savory glaze or drizzled with a bright herb sauce, it’s a foolproof seasonal staple.

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What Is Japanese Eggplant?

Japanese eggplant is a long and slender cultivar of eggplant (Solanum melongena, also called aubergine) with delicate dark purple skin and a mild, sweet flavor. You can use Japanese eggplants in many Asian dishes, such as nasu dengaku, a simple presentation of grilled eggplant brushed with a miso glaze, and Western eggplant dishes, like eggplant parmesan.

What Is the Difference Between Globe Eggplant and Japanese Eggplant?

Japanese eggplants and globe eggplants are two cultivars in the eggplant family with some key differences:

  • Shape: Globe eggplants are a standard American eggplant that grows large and heavy with a rounded end. Japanese eggplant varieties are long and slender fruits that look more like a dark-purple cucumber than a globe eggplant.
  • Skin: While the skin of globe eggplants is thick and sturdy, the skin of Japanese eggplants is delicate, thin, and doesn’t require peeling, making it easier to eat. Soaking the eggplants in ice water before cooking will also help to retain their inky purple color.
  • Flavor: Globe eggplants have a slightly bitter taste, so chefs prefer salting or seasoning them during preparation. Japanese eggplants have a milder flavor with a sweetness that doesn’t require as much seasoning beforehand.
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Grilled Japanese Eggplant Recipe

Serves
4-8
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil, plus more
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • ¼ cup mint, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 4 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
  1. Preheat a grill to high heat. While the grill is heating, combine the olive oil, tahini, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sesame oil in a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  2. Combine the scallions, mint, and cilantro in a small bowl.
  3. Score the flesh of each eggplant half in a crosshatch pattern. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the eggplant halves cut side down on the grill. Cook until they are golden brown and lightly charred around the edges, 5–6 minutes. Use tongs to flip the eggplants skin-side down, and cook them for another 3–4 minutes, until the skins are crisp and glossy.
  5. Transfer the eggplants to a serving platter and brush or drizzle with the tahini marinade. Top with herbs and sesame seeds, and serve any extra sauce on the sauce.

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