Refreshing, Piquant, and Loved for Many Years
“Steamed eggplant with Sansho (Japanese pepper) soy dressing” is one of the popular dishes in summer in Sasayama-shi, Hyogo Prefecture. Steamed eggplant with a delicate, silky texture soaks up the fresh piquant Sansho soy sauce and the flavor will permeate the dish. You will simply love it. The recipe has become popular among busy rice and soybean farmers in the region as a quick-and-easy recipe that can be made from only a few ingredients: Sansho peppercorns from their gardens and eggplants from their fields.
The dish is also served at a local restaurant called Satoyama Kobo Kumobe, which is owned by a limited liability company and serves dishes using local agricultural products. One of the representative partners of the company, Susumu Imai, 65, said his favorite is the one prepared by his grandmother. “It just stands out in my memory as something I must have in summer,” he said. “Sansho will help us burn off some summer heat and prevent food poisoning. Old people are so clever.” Sansho peppercorns left on trees until late August are very hard, but if you grind them patiently, they’ll give you maximum aroma. To match this spicy scent, “You should leave some skin on eggplant. This way, you can also enjoy nice texture,” Imai explained. You can also use ginger instead of Sansho and miso instead of soy sauce. Yoshiko Sawa, 75, and Mutsuko Nonaka, 73, who cook at the restaurant said that they both “love it because it’s piquant.”
Grilled eggplant served in cold miso soup is another grand old recipe for the locals to enjoy the seasonal vegetable in a variety of ways. “I hope to pass down these simple traditional recipes to younger generations,” said Imai.
Recipe for Steamed eggplant with Sansho soy dressing
■ Ingredients (4 servings)
-30 grams Sansho peppercorns
-3 tablespoon soy sauce
-2 tablespoon sugar
-2 tablespoon broth
-A touch of mirin sweet cooking rice wine
■ How to cook
1) Remove the hull from the eggplants. Halve them lengthwise and steam until tender.
2) Leave the steamed eggplants for around 30 minutes to cool until manageable.
3) Grind Sansho pepper well using an earthenware mortar and a pestle.
4) Add soy sauce, sugar, broth and mirin sweet cooking rice wine to 3 to make dressing.
5) Cut the steamed eggplants into slices and toss them with the dressing in the mortar.
(Aug. 22, 2014)