I had something like this at an izakaya in Akasaka and I thought it was one of the most ingenious things I’d ever eaten. Essentially, it’s pork and prawn (shrimp) gyoza, but instead of gyoza pastry, the filling is sandwiched between thin slices of aubergine. I later realised that this is just stuffed aubergine, which is made in many ways in many different cultures and, in fact, this particular preparation owes a lot to Chinese cookery. So while it’s not as innovative as I originally thought, it is nonetheless exceedingly delicious and possibly easier to make than actual gyoza.
MAKES 10 to 12 CHUNKY GYOZA
1 aubergine (eggplant)
100 g (3½ oz) fatty minced (ground) pork
50 g (2 oz) prawns, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
15 g (½ oz) ginger root, peeled and minced
2 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
¼ tsp salt
1 large pinch of white pepper
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) or potato starch
2 tbsp oil
50 ml (1¾ fl oz/3 tbsp) sake
100 ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup) water
1½ tbsp soy sauce
ponzu, store-bought or homemade, to serve
Remove the ends from the aubergine and cut in half lengthways.
Cut each half into six or seven half-rounds, about 2 cm (½ in) thick.
Turn each half-round into a pocket by carefully slicing lengthways into the curved side almost to the bottom, keeping it still attached along the flat, cut side, so you have something that looks a bit like a tiny hard taco shell or a little purse.
Mix the pork, prawns, garlic, ginger, spring onions, salt and pepper well, then stuff this mixture into each piece of aubergine (the mixture will overflow from the edges of the aubergine – that’s okay).
Gently toss the aubergine gyoza in the cornflour or starch.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat, then add the gyoza and cook for 5 minutes on each side until nicely browned.
Add the sake, water and soy sauce to the pan, then place a lid on it and steam for 5 minutes; by now, the aubergine should be totally soft and the filling cooked through.
Remove the lid and continue cooking until all the liquid has evaporated.
Remove the gyoza from the pan and drain on paper towels, then transfer to a plate and serve with ponzu on the side.
MEAL FOR TWO WITH
Fried Rice with Crispy Bits (page 168) or Spicy Sesame Ramen Salad (page 159).
Shōchū, lager or oolong.
Recipe reproduced with permission from Tim Anderson & taken from his new book Your Home Izakaya (Hardie Grant, £25) Photography: Laura Edwards