Amidst the chaos of tourists, skateboarders and homeless people in Union Square there is a temple of calm. It’s called Republic and they serve noodles. All kinds of noodles – glass noodles, ramen noodles, Thai noodles, Malaysian noodles and most of them are pretty good. It’s a little too much of a scene there and honestly the noodles are just okay.
However there is one dish on the menu that has always stood out to me and I order at least two every time I go (It’s been a while to say the least). That dish is their Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Lime and Soy. For years I’ve been searching for the recipe- hoping someone would post it on Chowhound or Serious Eats. My searches were only met with silence.
My desire for the “secret recipe” was a bit silly so I took matters into my own hands and tried to recreate the dish based on the ingredients listed on the menu- DUH! Aren’t you glad we live in an age where you can see an entire restaurant’s menu online. Thanks Internet.
There were 5 ingredients listed- Japanese eggplant, lime juice, sesame seeds, soy sauce, scallions. Could it really be that simple? Answer: Yup!
I trust that if you make this tonight, you’ll be having at least three times in the next week because it’s really THAT good. Tons of flavor and actually good for you- plus it won’t take you more than 10 minutes.
You definitely need to use the gangly long Japanese eggplant instead of regular eggplants. Serve alongside rice with tofu and you’ve got yourself a nice meal. I left off the sesame seeds since the lime soy sauce is this amazing explosion of tanginess and scallions round the whole thing out. Trust me, just try it. All you need is a knife and a frying pan.
Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Lime and Soy
You will need:
2 Japanese eggplants
2 scallions, green part only finely chopped
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons lime juice from 1 large lime
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1. Cut the stem of the eggplant and move your knife halfway down to cut it in half. Stand each half up and cut in half again. You should have 4 eggplant pieces. Lay each piece with the white flesh facing up and sprinkle lightly with salt. Using a small sharp knife, make 3 shallow diagonal cuts (about 1/4 inch deep) and then turn the eggplant and repeat so you have a slanted grid pattern.
2. Make the sauce by mixing the lime juice and soy sauce in a bowl.
3. Heat the oil in a small non-stick skillet. Cook the first 4 eggplant halves skin side down over medium-high heat for 2 minutes without disturbing. After 2 minutes, there should be some intense scorch marks on the skin – if not keep cooking. Flip the eggplants and cook for 3 minutes flesh side down. After a minute add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan – it should sizzle and smoke. Remove the eggplants to the bowl with sauce and marinate. Repeat with the other batch.
4. Sprinkle with scallions and serve. These are also amazing cold, so tripple the recipe and have them for lunch tomorrow.