Barbara Kafka's Marinated Eggplant

September 10, 2013
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

A faster, cooler, and cleaner way to cook eggplant -- in the microwave. It's also the best tasting one we tested. The flesh sort of crinkles up and the sweet flavors concentrate. It's soft but not flimsy; aggressively flavored but still tasting of itself. Recipe adapted slightly from The New York Times (July 8, 1992). Note: In today's high-powered microwave ovens, the plastic wrap might melt in spots, but the eggplant will still cook beautifully. If you're concerned about this, see here for information about choosing a microwave-safe brand. —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 medium-size cloves garlic
  • 3/8 ounce fresh peeled ginger (a 1-by- 1/4-inch piece), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 small Chinese eggplants (2 to 3 ounces each)
  1. Combine all ingredients, except eggplants, in a blender. Process until smooth.
  2. Prick the eggplants several times with a fork and pull off the leaves. Cut in half lengthwise. On the open side of each half, make three deep diagonal slashes in each direction. Place eggplants skin side down in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch microwave-safe oval dish.
  3. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of the marinade over each eggplant half. Rub the marinade into the flesh so that it runs into the cuts. Turn eggplants skin side up. Pour remaining marinade into dish. Let stand for 45 minutes.
  4. Turn eggplants skin side down. Cover tightly with lid or microwave plastic wrap. Cook at 100 percent power in a high-power oven for 10 minutes. Prick plastic to release steam.
  5. Remove from microwave and uncover. Serve warm or at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Janne Brorup Weston
    Janne Brorup Weston
  • Marsha Gainey
    Marsha Gainey
  • Petite fee
    Petite fee
  • Jara
  • mrslarkin
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

41 Reviews

bas26 August 8, 2018
The first time I made this, I found it too salty tasting and in a strange way, not as flavorful as I expected. This time, I cut back on the soy sauce and added water to equal 1/4 cup. I also added 2 tsp. sugar which made a huge difference in flavor--closer to Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, one of my favorites. After nuking for 4-5 minutes, I seared the cut side down on a non-stick pan for about 3 minutes and the result was really delicious. I could have nuked it a minute more for a softer texture but the flavor was perfect.
hookmountaingrowers July 19, 2016
Not crazy about the outcome. Flavoring was too strong. Wouldn't repeat it again but glad I tried a different method.
Renee B. August 10, 2015
I researched microwaved eggplant online and found an article by Bitten that referenced original the NYT recipe. For high-powered microwaves the cooking time should be cut starting at 1/2 time. I went with 6.5 minutes. Cooked a double batch, half on a platter and half in a lasagna dish. Cling wrap melted on platter but held fine in the deep dish so go with a deeper dish. The flavor was okay, the texture was a little mushy and it was a little salty for my taste. I tried browning several already cooked pieces in a non-stick pan. No improvement. All of that said, I ate every piece, some alone, some over rice. I think roasting would be a better but longer route.
Janne B. February 15, 2015
I don't use a microwave. How would I proceed with a gas oven?
Marsha G. September 19, 2014
I made a mash-up of the recipe above and evelyn's modifications and it was yumm-o! Smelled strongly while it was marinating on the counter and while it was baking -- not unpleasant, just fragrant.
Petite F. September 10, 2014
Great flavor love it baked then broiled for few minutes.

Thx for sharing...
rbsoccermom August 26, 2014
I printed this recipe out the other day when I was trying to decide what to do with the eggplant that came in my farm box. I ended up doing something else with the eggplant, but this marinade sounded so good that I made itanyway, for some mahi mahi fillets. I used Tamarai, and it was really delicious! Definitely a keeper; I highly recommend using this marinade for grilled fish!
Jara July 28, 2014
I've made these twice now and I think the best way is to par-microwave them, and then roast on a grill for a few minutes to add a nice char and textural contrast. Without grilling, like Antonia notes, the eggplants are just pasty and mushy, and one-note.
evelyn June 15, 2014
I made this two ways: I nuked half the eggplants but slow-roasted half, skipping the marinading time so that the whole thing got done at about the same time. I roasted the eggplants at 325F for a half hour, skin side down, then flipped them so that the open side was down, raised the heat to 350 so the open side would caramelize, and baked for 15 minutes more. They were both good, but I liked the baked better because the skin was much more edible and the cross-hatched open side was caramelized and crisp. Roasting might address the issues of soggy eggplant and pasty marinade that Antonia James raised a while back.
homie S. March 23, 2014
I made this with an Italian purple eggplant in the toaster over for about 30 minutes, it was very tasty. Though I didn't leave the marinade on for long before cooking, I think that worked in my favor, because the flavor of the roasted eggplant came through beautifully without being overpowered by the marinade. I can't remember, but I might have added a touch of sugar to the marinade. It was good at room temp the next day, too.
homie S. March 23, 2014
Just want to clarify...I did NOT put plastic wrap in the toaster over!!! I loosely covered with foil instead.
Tashinpa October 9, 2013
I was very much looking forward to this, as I love Chinese eggplant and particularly its creamy texture when cooked well. This was pretty underwhelming, although the texture was fine.

But while I consider myself to be quite the salt fiend, I found the marinade *very* salty and too one-noted. Maybe the amount of rice vinegar needs to be upped, or it needs hot sauce and/or some sugar... just anything to brighten up the flavor a bit.
Elaine1217 September 25, 2013
Hurriedly tried this last night but embarrassed to say I didn't have the cilantro or ginger, nor did I have 45 min to spare to marinate it!...My method probably did not do it justice (it IS called Marinated Eggplant after all!) but it was still excellent, husband LOVED it! He said put it in the rotation! Quick and easy too...can't wait to try it just as written...I think this must be one of those brilliant recipes that is very forgiving!
Patty C. September 19, 2013
This recipe was a different way to prepare eggplant. It did not seem salty to me and I do not use much salt. The soy,ginger,garlic,sesame oil, rice wine vinegar makes a really good condiment for other foods..flank steak or chicken for example. Followed directions and the eggplant was tender after 10 minutes in the microwave. I put holes in the plastic wrap when it puffed up and the eggplant was tender and an attractive color. Added the cilantro as a garnish after eggplant was cooked.
Kate's K. September 18, 2013
I used low sodium soy sauce.
nununo September 18, 2013
Is low sodium soy sauce less salty? I didn't know about this. I'll try to find it. Thanks.
nununo September 18, 2013
The taste is great, but it turned out way too salty, probably due to using lots of soy sauce. Any suggestions to correct the salt? Shall I tryto replace some of the soy sauce with water?
mrslarkin September 16, 2013
yum! i used equivalent weight in small globe eggplant, sliced into 1" thick rounds. I added a tsp sugar because my marinade was way too garlicky. Mine needed an extra 5 min in microwave. Sprinkled torn basil over top and it was like a restaurant dish. A little on salty side, so I'm making some plain quinoa to accompany. Thanks Kristen!
Kirsten S. September 14, 2013
This was amazing! 20 minutes start to finish for me, and I used a normal eggplant cut into eighths because that's what I had in the kitchen. It was soft and delicious, though not as caramelized as the picture seems to show. Was the pricking of the plastic wrap supposed to happen before or after microwaving? Thanks for a great way to make sure I use all of my eggplant!
petalpusher September 13, 2013
to carswell, the blender use for the marinade really breaks down the sesame oil to emulsify the ingredients.
Kate's K. September 12, 2013
I made this last night and enjoyed it very much. I didn't use plastic wrap - just an old Corning Ware casserole dish with a glass top. I did not use a blender to mix up the marinade because a microplane worked just fine to grate the ginger and I minced the garlic finely with a knife. I have a lot of Japanese Eggplant ripening in the garden and this gave me a new way to use it. I like all the flavors together. Thanks!
AntoniaJames September 12, 2013
I made this last night and frankly, was underwhelmed. The recipe suggests that you prick the plastic to release steam after you cook the eggplant. Perhaps my ultra-fresh tiny eggplant was just inherently too juicy, but I am wondering whether I should have sweated some of the water out before marinating. The flavor was generally good (though the ginger seemed out of balance -- too much -- but again, that might have been due to the super fresh, extra juicy ginger my Korean grocer sells) but due to all the moisture in the microwaved dish, the sauce did not brown. The end result: soggy eggplant with an unappealing light brown paste instead of a pleasantly caramelized glaze.

That said, I stuffed the eggplant in freshly made phulka roti wraps with lightly-seared mahi mahi strips over which I'd squeezed the juice of a lime, along with cilantro leaves, avocado and thinly-sliced half moons of Persian cucumber. Mr T declared the wraps "really good." ;o)
Kristen M. September 12, 2013
Sorry to hear you were disappointed. I'm curious, what did you use to cover the pan? As I mentioned in the post, every time I've tested this in our 1200 watt microwave, the plastic wrap has melted a bit, essentially venting it part-way through cooking and reducing the sauce. This happened with multiple brands of microwave and non-microwave wrap, even when I used a double layer. I wonder if I should recommend removing the cover for the last couple minutes if this doesn't happen.
AntoniaJames September 12, 2013
I used a product with the brand name of "Cling Wrap" in one layer. It did melt, though just a long strip on one side. I don't know how far into the cooking process it melted, i.e., how long the cover was vented. My microwave is only 1000 Watts. Do you think that made a difference? Also, what is the point of the "prick plastic" instruction in step 4? ;o)
Kristen M. September 12, 2013
Your results sound very different from ours, so I imagine the wattage must make a difference (among who knows how many other factors!). I think pricking the plastic is simply to prevent burning yourself on any remaining steam when you remove the plastic cover. Sorry your results weren't spectacular, but I'm glad Mr. T enjoyed it anyhow!