Miso Grilling Sauce: Dengaku

grilled eggplantThe Farmers’ Market had lovely eggplants to remind me of this tasty grilling sauce called dengaku, made with miso, saké, mmirin, and sugar, and in this recipe, thickened with eggs. It’s a traditional Japanese grilling sauce for tofu, but one can use this grilling sauce with other vegetables, seafood, and fish. 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.

Scallop Dengaku

dengaku-meal2_7480Mr. Tess bought shrimp and scallops for a pasta dish, but he did not use the scallops. They were beautiful large specimens, smelling of the sea, though only four. They were perfect for a small side dish for my lamb chop and corn on the cob dinner.

Scallop dengaku is an example of modern Japanese cooking mixing traditions with principles and flavors of European cooking. In this case, a gratin technique: the scallops are baked and not grilled on skewers.

Nasu Dengaku: Eggplant Grilled with Miso

Nasu-Dengaku-skewersOn our trip to the Farmers’ Market last week, and we showed enough restraint not to buy more than we’d use in a week. I bought some lovely small Japanese eggplants. We grilled them on the hibachi, in the dark—it’s getting dark too much earlier again—and some of them were overcooked. Also, if you study the picture of the plated nasu dengaku, note that I applied quite a bit more sauce than needed on them; even so, this recipe is a very nice way to eat eggplants. Try the recipe but use a lighter hand.

Dengaku: Miso Grilling Sauce

dengaku-sauce_7457The characters of the word “dengaku” (田楽) mean rice paddy plus harmony or music or play.

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.