Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eggplants: Mushy and Flavorless, No More!

Most people have a strong aversion to eggplants. Mushy and gross are the responses I get when I ask why they don't like to eat eggplants. And I don't blame them. I've had many a mushy and flavorless Eggplant Parmesans in my lifetime. I love a good Baba Ganoush, but that too does nothing to rehabilitate eggplants' reputation for mushiness. But when it comes to Korean food, gaji moochim (thanks D for the Korean tutorial) (steamed and seasoned eggplant) is one of my favorite side dishes. This is a recipe I've learned from my mom and grandmother. I noticed that compared to other recipes, this includes rice wine vinegar. It adds a kick to the dish that I personally like, but I guess it's a matter of personal taste.

I saw some great Japanese eggplants at the market the other day, so I thought I'd make some gaji moochim for dinner. Here's the recipe.

Steamed and Seasoned Eggplant (Korean Side Dish)

9 small eggplants
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon of salt (I use Kosher salt)
1 teaspoon of sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Rinse and remove the caps of the eggplants. My eggplants were pretty small so I didn't need to cut all of them into several pieces, but you don't want the pieces to be too long, so you can cut them once or twice, depending on how long your eggplant is. Go ahead and cut the pieces of eggplant in half lengthwise.

Next, you put about 2 cups of water into a steamer and place the pieces in the steamer bowl. Bring the water to a boil and cook the eggplants in several batches for about 10-15 mins each. It's pretty difficult to get the eggplants to steam evenly if you cram all of them into one batch. Keep an eye on them because you don't want them to overcook and turn brown. You want them to still retain their purple coloring but still be cooked throughout. One way to test them is to poke them with a chopstick to see if they are done. You should have no problem piercing a hole through it if it's fully cooked.
Take out the steamed eggplants from the steamer and set them aside to cool. Once it's cool enough to touch, take a chopstick and poke a hole in the middle of each piece and drag the chopstick down to the end, tearing the pieces into two. Do this several times to make long thin strips. Once you've gone through all of the eggplants, take a bunch in your palm and squeeze out the excess water. It's actually surprising how much water comes out of the eggplants. It's a tedious exercise, but it really enhances the texture of the final dish.

Now you're ready to add your seasonings. Chop 2 stalks of green onion and add, along with 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame seed oil, 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds, 2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar and 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. At this point, I grab a pair of disposable gloves and mix all the ingredients together. Taste and season more to your liking. I try to refrain from adding too much soy sauce, because it masks the bright purple color of the eggplant, so try to use more salt if it's not salty enough.

Here's the final product. You can add some red pepper flakes if you like a little heat. The eggplant soaks up the seasonings and really takes on a texture of its own. It's a tasty and healthy way to add more eggplants into your diet. I hope you will include it in your cooking repertoire from now on. Enjoy!


  1. gaji moochim!

    that just reminded me of the dduk and tuk thing
    and the 20 vs 30 stories ou told me. haha i was crying laughing when i heard the dduk/tuk thing ;)

  2. omg, you are so right. Moochim not namul... duh, I will change it. Gosh, I can't even pretend to be fobulous anymore.