It may be a quintessentially American activity, but in California, grilling isn’t just for summer celebrations: Often, it’s just a means to a quick, nutritious dinner with very little cleanup. We feel stereotypically Californian when we throw something on the grill and sit by the pool, waiting for the saucy aromas to fill the air.
This dish takes inspiration from nasu dengaku, or Japanese miso-glazed eggplant. If you can, buy or grow the thinner-skinned, more tender-fleshed Asian varieties of eggplants, as they’ll be much easier to slice into halves and throw on the grill. You don’t need to peel the eggplants either, and they’ll maintain a creamier texture when grilled, which is what you’re aiming for.
Serve with hot dogs or sausage, in ssam, or simply as banchan. I like to turn my leftover eggplants, if there are any, into a chunky dip by adding a little tahini and olive oil and gently processing with a food processor, Bullet, or immersion blender. —Dakota Kim
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4
Chinese or Japanese eggplants, sliced in half (or 2 to 3 Italian eggplants, quartered or cut in eighths, depending on size—you want your eggplant planks no more than two inches wide)
miso (preferably red, but white and yellow miso also work)
toasted sesame oil, plus more for brushing eggplants
mirin (substitute white cooking wine if not available)
freshly squeezed lemon juice
cloves of garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle or finely minced
scallions, whites finely chopped and greens thinly sliced, divided
Sesame seeds, for garnish
- Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking. (If you don’t have an outdoor grill, preheat your oven to 450°F.)
- Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise and slice off the calyx (most people prefer to cut off the calyx and then slice in half lengthwise, but I try to save as much of the eggplant as I can and find it easier to do so if it’s already sliced in half).
- Using a clean kitchen towel, blot the fleshy white side of the eggplant halves to remove moisture. Score the white flesh of the eggplant down to the skin in both directions, being careful not to slice through the purple skin. Brush the flesh side of the eggplant halves with sesame oil and place them on the grill flesh side up on foil sheets with holes poked through. (Do not crowd the eggplants—if necessary, use two baking sheets, with four eggplant halves on each sheet).
- Grill for approximately 7 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill. You want to see softening of the eggplant halves, but you want them to hold their shape—you don’t want them to be fork-soft or turn to mush. If not grilling, place the eggplant on a baking sheet and roast in your oven at 450°F for 15 to 20 minutes.
- While the eggplant is grilling, make the sauce. Thoroughly mix together the doenjang, gochujang (if using), miso, sesame oil, honey, mirin, lemon juice, scallion whites, and garlic.
- Remove the eggplant and spoon sauce onto each eggplant half until each is covered in a thin layer. Don’t go too heavy here, but don’t be shy, either. You will have some sauce leftover for applying at the end.
- Place the eggplants back on the grill for another 7 minutes, until insides are tender and almost gooey. (If you’re using the oven, raise the heat to 550°F or the “broil” setting for 5 to 7 minutes.) A little bit of char is fine, but not too much.
- Garnish with a bit more sauce, sliced scallion greens, and sesame seeds.