Eggplant Ungai


Eel-like flavors are evident in this eggplant “unagi,” or “unagi,” with its sweet-sour sauce. Eggplant takes center stage here rather than an eel.


Sharing recipes is a way of life in our family.

Often, inspiration comes from reading old recipes, dining out, or having a shower. Even when shampooing our hair, we’ve had ideas for anything from preparing egg tarts to baking cinnamon rolls with our milk bread recipe.

This one, on the other hand, was sent to me by my mother while she was searching for recipes on a Chinese website. Steamed, pan-fried eggplant was shown in the film. Then it was swiftly simmered in a dark sauce.

Unagi, or Japanese eel, was the inspiration for the final product. The kind of topping you may find on sushi rice.

This recipe was born as a result. I made a few changes to the Chinese version, such as substituting mirin for Chinese Shaoxing wine and adding fish sauce for that umami, funky edge.

That’s when I realized I wasn’t the only one who had come up with the idea of “eggplant unagi.” Eel is used in place of the eggplant in this dish from our friends at Just One Cookbook.

Even with roasted seaweed and avocado, I can easily envision eating this for dinner any night of the week. Perhaps a side of bok cabbage for good measure. Thursday night dinners don’t get much better than this!


  • 1 pound of Japanese or Chinese eggplant
  • 1 chopped scallion
  • steamed rice (for serving)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of sugar


  1. To create thick chunks approximately 6 inches (15 cm) long, peel the eggplants and cut them in half crosswise. Put the pieces in a heat-resistant bowl.
  2. Boil water in a pan with a steamer rack and cover, a wok with a bamboo steamer, or even just a steamer. See more information on steamer setup. When a knife easily pierces the eggplant, it has been steaming for 16 to 18 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Slice the steamed eggplants in half lengthwise, but not all the way through, once they are cool enough to handle after being steamed. Like a book, unfold each component. Expand the eggplant’s flesh even more by using two forks. This gives the sauce you’ll later use to braise it more surface area.
  4. Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. The eggplant should be pan-fried until golden brown on all sides.
  5. Combine the water, light soy sauce, fish sauce, mirin, oyster sauce, sugar, and dark soy sauce in a small bowl.
  6. The sauce mixture should be poured over the eggplant and simmered until reduced by half. Before laying the eggplant on top of the steamed rice, dip each piece in the sticky sauce. Scallions and sesame seeds go on top. Serve.
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