Discovering "Nasu" - Everything you need to know about the Japanese Eggplant (2023)

Japanese eggplant (used synonymously with the Japanese word “Nasu” in this blog post) comes from the nightshade family, which is paired with things like tomatoes and peppers. Like these other members of the nightshade family, Japanese eggplant is botanically considered a fruit, although it is usually considered a vegetable due to its salty taste.

This article tells you everything you need to know about this oddly shaped but delicious fruit, including how it compares to other types of eggplant, how to cook Japanese eggplant, popular dishes it's used in, and what spirits it pairs well with. , as well as looking at the health benefits and even potential health risks. Anyway, let's start with getting to know the family.

Meet the Nightshade family

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Nightshades are a family of plants that includes fruits, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, as well as vegetables, such as potatoes. There are also nightshades that are considered harmful to human health, including the aptly named 'Deadly Nightshade' and tobacco. Evening primroses are unique in that they contain alkaloids, a class of naturally occurring nitrogenous compounds found in plants. More on that later!

So nightshades are the name of the plant family, but within this general category there are also various types of eggplant. Before we briefly look at these different types, it's probably best to make one thing clear. An eggplant does not denote any other type of fruit other than eggplant. They are just different names for the same plant. The UK, possibly due to its proximity to the European continent, has adopted the French word 'eggplant', while eggplant is used almost everywhere in the English-speaking world. However, due to people using the word "aubergine", it has come to mean the rounder, rather plump purple fruit enjoyed in the UK.

Varieties of eggplants

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What is characteristic of Japanese eggplant? It has fewer seeds than some other varieties, giving it a smoother, more delicate and less bitter taste. (As a general rule of thumb, the more seeds there are in the fruit, the more natural the bitterness will be.) Its mild flavor makes it pair well with bold flavors such as garlic, chili and ginger. Although available year-round, the peak season for Japanese eggplant is from summer to fall.

So, what other types of eggplant are there and how are they different? Probably the Chinese eggplant is more similar to the Japanese "nasu" eggplant, at least in appearance. Both are purple and longer and thinner than their European counterparts. The Japanese version is usually smaller and darker in color. Like Japanese eggplants, Chinese eggplants are essentially seedless, making them sweeter than many other varieties.

Other types of eggplant include the Sicilian variety, called the graffiti eggplant because of its purple and white stripes, the Italian eggplant and the American globe eggplant which are both smaller, thicker and more bitter than those found in East Asia and white and green ones. eggplants from India.

Nor is it that there is only one type of "nasu". Japan contains many varieties with their own locally derived shapes and features. An example of this is "Kamonasu", which originates from Kyoto.

Although this article will focus on Japanese eggplants, variety is the spice of life and we encourage you to try as many of the different varieties as possible, as they all have something to offer.

How do you prepare Japanese eggplant?

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Perhaps the best way to describe Japanese eggplants is “squishy but spongy”. This means that while the skin doesn't break and fall apart easily, the inside easily absorbs the flavors of the sauces and spices they are cooked with. and texture when used in cooking.

Before looking at different ways of cooking "Nasu", we should note that while they are rarely eaten raw due to their natural hardness, they are a key ingredient in Shibazuke, a form of Kyoto vegetable (or fruit in this case). Especially in the summer, this dish, where eggplant is often served with shiso and ginger, is wonderfully refreshing.

Other ways to prepare Japanese eggplant include grilling, baking, frying, frying, and boiling. Let's take a look at some typical dishes that use this versatile fruit.

Popular dishes with "Nasu"

Eggplant Hate

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A popular way to prepare Japanese eggplants is stir-frying, and one dish that uses this is eggplant miso, which is a delicious side dish that makes a great partner for white rice.

This is a simple yet delicious dish made as follows:

  1. Cut the eggplant into pieces of any size.
  2. Put oil in a large pan and fry the eggplant pieces well.
  3. Boil the eggplant, add sugar if necessary and mix.
  4. Add desired amount aka miso and mix again.

We have a recipe for thatdengaku miso nasuThis is an eggplant miso item on our blog, so be sure to check it out!

Nasu geen nibitashi

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Another popular dish that uses Japanese eggplant is Nasu no nibitashi. Eggplant is combined with daikon (giant radish) and ginger in a noodle soup base. The dish is usually eaten alone or used as a topping for tofu or udon noodles.

  1. Cut off the head of the eggplant, cut into bite-sized pieces and make diagonal slits in the skin.
  2. Grate the daikon (ferris radish)
  3. In a frying pan that has been heated on medium heat, put the cooking oil and fry the eggplant
  4. Once the eggplant is cooked, add the grated daikon, ginger and noodle soup and heat through.
  5. Let it simmer and after cooking on low heat for about 5 minutes, remove the pan.

In addition to the above dishes, nasu is often fried as tempura, fried with other meats and vegetables, as 'Mapo nasu', a spicy Chinese-style minced meat dish, or as 'Nasu agebitashi', in which thick slices of eggplant are fried and served in Anshoyu(soy sauce) broth.

Combine nasu with alcohol

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Nasu also goes well with various alcoholic beverages. Fried nasu with miso and other savory flavors, as well as the salty taste of shibazuke, work very wellChuamiserved with beer.

As mentioned earlier, Japanese eggplant absorbs the flavors of the foods it is paired with, so when cooked in Japanese-style dishes, it pairs naturally well with Japanese sake, and when used to add volume to a meat dish, it can be enjoyed with a dark , full-bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

If you're looking for a really tasty sake to pair with your Japanese eggplant dishes, be sure to check this outhere.

Is "Nasu" a fruit without nutrients?

The Japanese eggplant has gained an unfair reputation, even in its native Japan, for being a nutrient-free fruit. This appears to be due to the fact that it has a very high water content of around 90%. However, this should not be taken as a negative in terms of its health-promoting properties. Eating eggplant in summer is known to lower your body temperature and help you stay hydrated.

In addition, "nasu" not only contains many nutrients that are beneficial to your health, but like onions and artichokes, it retains a large portion of these nutrients even when cooked. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, B vitamins and potassium, and is also high in antioxidants, which are known to protect the body from damage caused by harmful substances known as free radicals, thus helping to prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. . disease and cancer.

It is particularly rich in an anthocyanin called nasunin. This is a photochemical concentrated in the purple skin of eggplants, protecting it from the sun's rays and environmental damage. Some studies have suggested that nasunin provides cognitive function in humans by protecting brain cell membranes from free radicals and works to keep cells healthy by providing them with food and removing waste.

High in fiber, which improves satiety, and naturally low in calories, Japanese eggplants can also help prevent obesity. However, the absorbent nature of aubergines means they can soak up large amounts of oil, and it may be best to avoid the frying method if using them as part of a weight management plan.

In any case, what should be clear from the information above is that nasu is anything but a nutrient-free fruit, and eating it can contribute to a balanced, healthy diet.

Are there any health risks to eating evening primroses?

Nightshades, the family that Japanese eggplants belong to, have gotten some bad press in recent years due to the presence of alkaloids. Alkaloids are valuable medicinal substances that can be used in the treatment of a wide variety of diseases, including malaria and diabetes.

However, there is a poisonous variety called glycoalkaloids that are evolutionarily produced by nightshades to keep the creepy crawlies away and help ensure the plant's survival. The debate over nightshades, including eggplant, revolves around whether these same toxins may be harmful to humans. Indeed, it has been suggested that they may worsen autoimmune disorders and irritable bowel syndrome. Some celebrities, such as NFL star Tom Brady, follow a diet stripped of evening primrose because it is said to reduce inflammation.

However, science suggests that while nightshades may worsen existing inflammatory conditions, they won't have a negative effect on most people, and eggplants in particular may have anti-inflammatory effects. So, unless you already suffer from an inflammatory condition, there seems to be little evidence that there are any health problems with eating eggplant.

Nasu - Neither nutritional nor bland

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Although considered in some circles to be tasteless and lacking in nutrients, the Japanese eggplant is neither. Although they have little flavor when eaten alone, they extract the flavor from the food they are paired with, combining it with their unique texture to create a very enjoyable dining experience. This also means that they pair well with a wide variety of different alcoholic beverages, depending on the dish in which they are used. They are high in essential nutrients and antioxidants, as well as being an excellent source of dietary fiber, an element often lacking in the modern diet.

What is your favorite way to eat nasu? Let us know in the comments.

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