Ponzu Eggplant With Puffed Wild Rice

by Elena on October 10, 2014

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There are a couple staples in our pantry that I started using after working in kitchens in NYC.  Things like soy sauce, mirin, yuzu, kombu, bonito flakes, and ponzu are ingredients that I worked with often, flavors that many Chefs in the US have incorporated into American cuisine.  They incorporate bright but subtle flavor into dishes and I find myself finishing even unlikely dishes, such as pastas and French stews, with these Japanese ingredients.  Jon loves Asian food and culture and he has taught me a lot.  He is my encyclopedia when I am curious about a new ingredient and what to do with it.  We have even toyed around with the idea of moving abroad for some time, but for now we take advantage of the availability of products we have here in New York City.  I usually take Jon with me, after all it can be very overwhelming to venture out to a Japanese market and see all of these bottles and ingredients.  Some of them are only in Japanese but you can always ask a sales person to help you.

Soy SaucesVinegars

Because of the diversity in NYC, depending on where you live, a lot of local supermarkets carry ingredients from all over the world.  I have spoken about the magic of Trade Fair and Food Bazaar out in Queens whenever I am looking for an ingredient or spice I can’t find anywhere else.  Here are a few of Japanese markets in Manhattan.  I usually go to Sunrise Mart because they have multiple locations throughout the city.

Japanese Supermarkets in Manhattan

Sunrise Mart – 29 3rd Avenue & 494 Broome Street, & 12 E. 41st Street

Katagiri – 224 E. 59th Street

Dainobu – 129 E. 47th Steet & 36 W. 56th Street

Tokyo Mart – 91 Mulberry Street

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Making ponzu sauce is really easy, the only work you need to do is juice your citrus.  Ponzu is a Japanese citrus-based sauce that you can use as a dipping sauce for sushi or sashimi, a dressing for vegetables, or marinade for meats.  You can also purchase bottled ponzu but what is the fun in that?  Personally I enjoy juicing all the fresh fruit because I think it is worth it to get the flavor.  The one exception would be the yuzu.  Yuzu is a hybrid fruit that originates from East Asia.  The fruit itself is rarely eaten but the aromatic skin is used in cooking, as well as the tart juice.  Yuzu fruit is very expensive on its own and the easiest way to obtain the juice is to buy it bottled.  You can find it in a Japanese market.  Kombu is edible kelp and it is one of the ingredients the Japanese use to make dashi broth.  Kombu is rich in flavor and umami and it adds depth to the dishes you use it in.  I have used both this and this brand of kombu and I like them both.  I add kombu to just about everything, even my chicken soup when I have a cold.  I like to steep it for a couple hours and then strain it out.  Nori is seaweed that is paper-thin, much thinner than kombu.  You might recognize it as the seaweed that is used as a wrapper when making sushi.  For this recipe I use it as a garnish.

I love this eggplant dish because there is a lot of texture because of the puffed wild rice.  I have cheated before and used broken up rice cakes, but frying the wild rice yourself is so easy and assures that your puffed wild rice will be crispy.  It takes no more effort than bringing a small pot of oil to 410 degrees and dropping in your wild rice.  The wild rice will puff up almost instantly so make sure that you have a slotted spoon and paper lined plate nearby.

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Wild Rice

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Ponzu Eggplant With Puffed Wild Rice

serves 6 as a starter

Ingredients
3 Japanese eggplants split in half
2 tsp canola oil (or any neutral oil)
Ponzu
1 cups soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup yuzu juice
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs grated ginger
zest 1 lemon
zest 1 lime
1 sheet of kombu (edible kelp)
Garnish
1/4 cup wild rice
black sesame seeds for garnish
Nori seaweed  cut into strips for garnish
1 tsp sesame oil

For Ponzu

Add all the wet ingredients soy, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, yuzu juice, rice wine vinegar, and sugar into a bowl and whisk.  Then add the ginger, zest, and kombu and let them steep over night and then strain.

For Eggplant
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Score your eggplants.  Heat a medium sized pan until hot then add your oil.  Sear your eggplants cut side down until golden brown and set aside on a foil lined sheet tray or baking dish.  Drizzle the pan with oil so they don’t stick and then add 1 tablespoon of ponzu over each eggplant, seared side up, so that the ponzu enters all the crevices of the eggplant.  Cover with foil, put in the oven and bake until your eggplant is tender and cooked through about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplants.

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For Puffed Wild Rice
Heat 1/2 in of a neutral oil in a small pot to 400 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer you can test one grain of rice and see if it puffs right away when you drop in the oil.  Once your oil is to temp slowly add in your rice and it will begin to puff up immediately.  Using a slotted spoon transfer your puffed rice to a paper lined plate to drain.IMG_3311

Assemble
When the eggplant is finished cooking you can drizzle more ponzu and 1 tsp of sesame over top and on the plate.  Top with the puffed rice, cut nori strips, and black sesame seeds.

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