Honestly, I never liked this dish when I was a kid. It’s because I was very sensitive to texture of foods when I was little. Anything that’s too mushy or too chewy, too gummy or too gooey – my stomach could not take it. And most often than not, eggplants were cooked too long and it was just too mushy for my taste. I have gotten much less picky about texture as I got older but I am still not a big fan of hwe(회)/raw fish mostly because of its texture. I have no problem eating raw things – I love raw abalone because they have a very interesting texture when raw – slightly slippery but soft on the outside and chewy + hard on the inside. But raw fish, I keep chewing and chewing but it has a hard time going down my throat. In fact, it wants to come back out a lot of times.. 😉
However, after coming to Korea, I have learned that if the fish is absolutely fresh, the texture is much more firm and I can stomach it much better. But honestly, I am still not a huge fan of raw fish. 😉
Back to eggplants.. so ever since I visited the wonderful countryside of Italy’s Montepulciano several years ago, my thoughts about eggplant has totally changed. The vacation home we stayed in had its own vegetable garden and I got to cook and taste fresh eggplant picked right from the garden. It was just simply amazing!! Perhaps this is when my dream of combining farming and cooking started. The taste was so amazing that I wanted to share with people how absolutely different tasting a dish could be when fresh, fully ripened ingredients are used.
Now, let’s get started!
Servings: 2-3 Cooking time: 10 min Difficulty: easy
- 220g/8 oz approx 2 eggplants – Asian long eggplant works best
- For Sauce
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce (진간장 Jinkanjang) – kikomann or Korean sampyo
- 1 tsp chopped garlic (마늘 maneul)
- 1 tsp sesame oil (참기름 chamkireum)
- 1 tsp sesame seeds (깨 Kkae)
- 1/4 tsp Korean gook kanjang (국간장 gook kanjang) – optional but adds incredible flavor
- 1 tsp chopped green chili peppers (풋고추 putgochoo)
- 1/4 tsp sugar (설탕 seoltang)
- 1/4 tsp solar sea salt (굵은 바다 소금)
- 1/8~1/4 tsp red chili powder (고추가루 gochukaroo)
- Wash eggplants. Cut off the top part and then lengthwise in half. For quicker steaming, you can cut the eggplants into smaller pieces before they are steamed. It works but it’s just not the same – more flavor will be lost when the pieces are smaller.
- Steam eggplants for about 10 min or 5 min after water starts to boil.
- Until eggplant is easily pierced with chopstick with no resistance. Do not overcook eggplant and make it mushy – please. 🙂
- Make sauce by combining sauce ingredients.
- Once eggplants are steamed, cool for few minutes. Cut eggplant halves into 2 or 3 shorter chunks. Tear each eggplant chunk into smaller pieces by hand – just like how mom’s made them for many years.
- Toss torn eggplant pieces with the sauce. Use your handy dandy plastic glove if you have one. Again, handle eggplant gently, do not bruise them.
Add green chili peppers and toss again.
- And that is all! Serve at room temperature.
This gaji namul is so good that you can even eat it just by itself and some rice. Or it’s great as a side dish to any Korean meal. Enjoy!