This vegan unagi made from eggplant is absolutely delicious and super drool-worthy!
I’m a big fan of Chinese or Japanese eggplant because the texture is tender once cooked. If you are not a fan, you can try my Vegan Unagi made from tofu and potato. It tasted just as great!
Vegan Unagi (Eggplant) Step-by-Step
Step 1: Prepare the eggplant
There are a few ways to cook the eggplant (see tips below) and today, I’m using the steam-pan-fry method. I like the softer texture on the inside while keeping the skin intact which makes the flipping and basting easier during cooking.
First, trim off the eggplant top, then cut it into logs of 2 or 3 depending on how long the eggplant is. I cut mine into two. Place them on a steamer safe plate and steam over high heat until tender, about 8-10 minutes. The time depends on how large your eggplant is.
Once it’s cool enough to handle, slice the eggplant lengthwise in half so it opens up like a book, but do not cut it through (see video or picture).
Repeat the same on the left and right to flatten the eggplant. Now, score the flesh vertically to create the mark. These marks will help increase the sauce absorption.
Step 2: Make the sauce
Using the same sauce as my Vegan Salmon Bowl, this sweet and savory baste is as simple as mixing together mirin, kombu dashi powder, soy sauce, and sweetener. If you can’t find instant kombu dashi, feel free to use kombu and mushroom to make the stock – please refer to my Miso Ramen. Alternatively, you may use this sauce from my other vegan unagi recipe, if you like.
Note: I found the kombu dashi powder online at Amazon or WorldMarket (brand – Muso Vegan Umami Broth) or at Mitsuwa Marketplace.
Step 3: Turn it into a vegan unagi bowl
Next, it’s time to cook the beautiful eggplant that you’ve created. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat with a spoonful of oil. Carefully transfer the eggplant over to the hot pan, cut side down.
Lightly pan-fry until slightly golden before flipping. This brown layer will prevent the flesh from tearing apart. Continue to cook the skin while basting the top with sauce. I used about 2.5 tablespoons for each eggplant.
If the sauce starts overflowing from the flesh, use a spatula to push the sauce close to the skin. Once the skin is slightly brown, flip one more time so the flesh can sip all the remaining sauce from the pan. If you have extra sauce, you may reduce it and use it as a drizzle. Flip one more time if needed to ensure the skin is fully cooked through.
Optional but highly recommended side – charred scallions! Simply place cleaned scallions on a heat-safe plate, add a drizzle of oil, and sprinkle with salt. Then, char using a hand torch. Similarly, you may broil or grill the seasoned scallions for similar results.
To serve, place rice in a bowl, top with a square sheet of nori (highly recommended), then the vegan unagi along with the charred scallions.
Drizzle with the extra sauce (optional) and garnish with sesame seeds.
Other ways to prepare eggplant
- Trim off the top. Poke eggplant a few times using a fork. Wrap it tightly with foil. Bake at 450°F (232°C) until soft on the inside, which can take about 30-45 minutes depending on the size. Then, continue to step 3 above.
- Roast eggplant in an open fire until the skin blistered. Place it in a bag or wrap it with a towel to allow the heat to soften the skin. Peel off the skin and continue to step 3. This method creates a more fragile eggplant, so carefully flip it over during cooking.
- Pan-fry-steam – this method is another one of my favorites to prepare eggplant at home. Trim off the top and then slice the eggplant in half, horizontally. Score them diagonally, both ways to create a diamond shape. Heat a non-stick pan with a drizzle of oil. Place the eggplant in the hot pan, scored side down. Cover with a lid. The steam will slowly cook the eggplant until tender. Flip and cook the skin for another minute or so, adding a little bit more oil if needed. Continue to step 3.
Other eggplant recipes to try
- Yu Xiang Qie Zi (Spicy Garlic Eggplant)
- Easy Dou Ban Jiang (Fermented bean sauce) Eggplant
- Stuffed Eggplant with Omnipork
- Air-fried eggplant with tomato
This Vegan Unagi made from eggplant is
- Easy to make
- one of the best ways to eat cook eggplant
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Unagi Bowl made from eggplant
- 1 pound Chinese or Japanese Eggplant
- A few stalks of scallions
- 1 sheet of nori cut into square to fit the bowl
- Sesame seeds
- Cooked rice or your favorite grains
- Cooking oil
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- ⅓ cup of hot water
- 1 teaspoon kombu dashi or kelp powder see notes
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- In a medium bowl, whisk the mirin, hot water, kelp powder, light soy sauce, maple syrup, and until combined. Set aside.
- Trim off the eggplant top, then cut into 4 or 5-inch sections. Steam over high heat until tender, about 8-10 minutes. I used a bamboo steamer in this step.
- Once the eggplant is cooled down, use a sharp knife to cut it open like a book but be careful not to cut through the skin. Then, make another slit on the right, then left. Now, score the flesh to create a holder for the sauce. (See pictures above or video)
- Heat a non-stick pan with a drizzle of oil over medium heat. Place the eggplant in, cut side down.
- Pan-fry until golden brown before flipping. Slowly baste the flesh with sauce, one tablespoon at a time. I used about 2.5 tablespoons for each eggplant section.
- Then, flip one more time so the flesh is now at the bottom and allow it to absorb all the remaining sauce from the pan. You may have extra sauce left and this can be reduced further in a pan and used as drizzle.
- To serve, season scallions with oil and salt. Using a hand torch, char until golden brown and fragrant.
- To assemble, place cooked rice in a bowl, top with cut nori, then eggplant. Drizzle with the extra sauce (optional) and garnish with sesame seeds and charred scallions.
- *If you can’t find kelp or kombu dashi powder, feel free to use homemade kombu dashi stock to replace the 1/3 cup of water.
- Leftover sauce can be reduced to serve as a drizzle or stored in a jar (refrigerated) for the next meal.