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Dengaku and Oshitashi

Sweet, salty, boozy dengaku —- broiled miso-glazed eggplant, tofu or sweet potato, is a classic Japanese bar snack usually served on skewers. Here, I go with summer-fresh eggplant and make it more than a morsel, pairing it with another fab Japanese starter, oshitashi, sesame-spangled spinach salad. Both are quick to make, plant-based, oishi (Japanese for delicious) and oil-free — just what Esselstyn orders. Add brown rice and you’ve got dinner.



  • 1/3 cup white miso fermented soybean paste*
  • 3 tablespoons sake or whiskey
  • 3 tablespoons mirin Japanese rice wine**
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave
  • 1 eggplant or 4 long slender Japanese eggplants, sliced into narrow strips


  • I know I know, this seems like hardly any dressing for a whole lotta spinach. Wait. The spinach cooks down to nothing and the minimal amount of dressing gives you maximum flavor.
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds



  • Preheat broiler.
  • In a small saucepan, heat miso, sake and mirin over medium heat. Stir well for 3 or 4 minutes, or until it comes together to make a creamy sauce. Add honey or agave. Stir to combine and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, place eggplant strips on a baking sheet and place right under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and broil another 2 minutes. Watch to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Remove eggplant from oven and paint with miso sauce. Broil for another 2 minutes or until miso is bubbling and eggplant is lacquered and luscious.
  • Remove eggplant from oven and set aside.


  • Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in sesame seeds and toast, for just a minute or two. Set aside.
  • Set fresh spinach in a colander in the kitchen sink. Pour boiling water over the spinach. It will turn bright green and utterly collapse. Let drain and cool.
  • In the meantime, in a small bowl, whisk together mirin, soy sauce and rice vinegar.
  • Squeeze spinach to rid of all excess water. Chop coarsely and fluff with a fork. Add dressing and give it a gentle mix.
  • Serve dengaku atop brown rice with spinach on the side. Garnish the whole shebang with toasted sesame seeds.


*Available at Asian markets and natural food stores. White miso is actually golden and while plenty salty, is less salty and assertive than red or brown miso.
** Available at Asian and gourmet markets and natural food stores.