With an abundance of green beans and eggplant coming out of my garden this year, I’ve been enjoying everything from stir-fries to ratatouille all summer. This week, for something a little different, I decided to turn my haul into a classic Japanese side dish.
Agebitashi (揚げびたし) literally means “fried and soaked” and is made by deep-frying vegetables naked, and then soaking them in a savory dashi broth. While certainly not as low-calorie as steaming, if the oil is hot enough, the escaping steam prevents too much oil from penetrating into the vegetables. Because frying evaporates the surface moisture from the vegetables, it makes the vegetables soak up the dashi like a sponge.
While you can make agebitashi with almost any firm vegetable (e.g. pumpkin, zucchini and carrots), I love using green beans and eggplant, both for their intense color, and wonderful texture. By flashing frying them, the green beans become tender, yet they retain a bit of crispness with an almost neon green color. The eggplant on the other hand becomes melt-in-your-mouth creamy while still retaining its vibrant purple hue.
Dashi is the Japanese word for “broth” and comes in many forms, but as with chicken or other types of broth, it’s best to make it from scratch. See this post for instructions on how to make dashi. You’ll want to make the strong variety for this dish.
Green Beans and Eggplant Agebitashi
- 3/4 cup strong basic dashi
- 2 teaspoons sake
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt (halve this if planning to soak the vegetables overnight)
- vegetable oil for frying
- 130 grams (4.6 ounces) green beans or flat beans
- 200 grams (7 ounces) Japanese or Chinese eggplant
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (For garnish)
- Add the dashi, sake, soy sauce, sugar and salt to a small saucepan and simmer until until it no longer smells like alcohol.
- Wash and thoroughly dry your green beans with paper towels. If there is any remaining water on the surface they will spatter when fried. Trim the ends off the green beans and slice in half.
- Wash and thoroughly dry the eggplant with paper towels. Trim the tops off and then halve lengthwise, slice at a 45 degree angle into ⅓-inch thick slices.
- Prepare a wire rack lined with 3 sheets of paper towels.
- Fill a heavy bottomed high-sided pot, such as a Dutch oven, with 2-inches of vegetable oil. Heat until it reaches 360 degrees F (180 C).
- Fry the green beans in batches, until they are bright green and the skin just starts to blister. This shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds if your oil is hot enough. Transfer to the paper towel lined rack to drain briefly before transferring to the dashi mixture while they are still hot. Repeat until there are no more green beans.
- Fry the eggplant in batches until the skins are bright purple and they give a little when pressed. Drain on the paper towels, using more to press as much oil out of them as you can without smashing them and then transfer while still hot to the dashi mixture.
- This dish is best after being soaked overnight in the dashi, but you can also serve it after soaking for 30 minutes. Plate the green beans and eggplants into a large bowl, cover with some of the dashi mixture and then sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish.
Yield: 4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.