Dengaku is one of the yakimono
(grilling and pan-frying
) methods of Japanese cooking. It involves grilling skewered food, then coating the food with a thin layer of sweetened miso and grilling again to caramelize the sweet sauce.The characters of the word “dengaku”
(田楽) mean rice paddy plus harmony
In medieval Japan, public entertainments called dengaku were part of agricultural festivals such as the during new year celebrations or during the rice planting season. The dancers or acrobats were called dengaku hoshi who cavorted on single short stilts. During the festivities, small cakes of tofu were grilled, with miso, on short flat skewers shaped somewhat like the stilts. The tofu dish took its name from the stilts.
In the 1700’s dengaku was served at post stations and rest stops on several great roads that linked major cities, and was served in tea shops of the entertainment sections of cities.
Beyond tofu, dengaku has come to include vegetables and konnyaku grilled and coated with miso. This style of grilling is very popular with home cooks. It’s easy to make, and with soup, rice, and pickles makes a filling meal. The various vegetables that are grilled with dengaku sauce include sliced eggplant, large mushrooms, green pepper strips, and sliced sweet potatoes. More modern variations include scallops or small fish such as sardines, smelt, ayu, or trout. Some recipes include deep-frying the food before grilling and caramelizing the sauce. Simpler recipes use charcoal broiling, oven broiling, or pan-frying.
In Japanese Cooking a simple art, Shizuo Tsuji includes two recipes for dengaku sauce: one with white miso and one with red miso. The recipes can be further varied by adding fragrant seasonings (see the recipe below). His recipes are unusual in that the miso/saké/mirin/sugar mixture is thickened with egg yolks. Mr. Tsuji notes that it is difficult to make this sauce in small quantities but it’s convenient to prepare and keep on hand for some time in the refrigerator.
Recipes using dengaku miso sauce: Scallop Dengaku, Eggplant Dengaku
Dengaku White Miso Topping
From: Japanese Cooking A Simple Art
by Shizuo Tsuji
about 1 ½ cups
- ¾ cup less 1 Tablespoon white miso
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons saké
- 2 Tablespoons mirin
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 7 Tablespoons dashi
- fragrant seasonings (choose one):
- ground toasted sesame seeds
- grated rind of yusu citron (or lime or lemon)
- motar-ground kinome leaves
- fresh ginger juice
Start water simmering in the bottom of a double boiler. Put the miso into the top of a the double boiler, and before putting it over the hot water, blend in egg yolks, saké, mirin, and sugar. Place over simmering water and gradually add dashi. Stir until thick. At the last, stir in one of the fragrant seasonings. Cool to room temperature.