I call it Infinite Eggplant because it is so good that you can eat it forever, i.e., infinitely. It is simply sautéed eggplants marinated in vinegar-soy sauce with sesame oil and a bit of chilli. Intensely flavoured eggplant that melts in your mouth. Use vegetarian dashi stock to make it vegan.
The name of Infinite Eggplant is a translation of the Japanese name of this recipe, ‘mugen nasu’ (無限茄子). The word ‘mugen’ (無限) means infinity or endless, ‘nasu’ (茄子) is eggplant.
About Mugen Dish
When a simple dish is so tasty that you can’t stop eating it, people sometimes call the dish mugen something, where something is the main ingredient of the dish. There is ‘mugen pīman’ (無限ピーマン, infinite capsicum), ‘mugen cabetsu’ (無限キャベツ, infinite cabbage), etc. There is even ‘mugen chikin’ (無限チキン, infinite chicken).
The use of the word ‘mugen’ originated from a social network in 2016 when a simple capsicum dish was introduced with the name ‘mugen pīman’ (無限ピーマン) because it was so tasty and impossible to stop eating it. Since then, using the word 無限 as part of the recipe name spread quickly.
You can’t use ‘mugen’ (無限) for any dish, though. It has to be a simple dish with great flavour. The recipe requires a small number of commonly used seasonings and cooking has to be very simple. Some recipes don’t even require a cooktop. What mugen dishes have in common in flavour is saltiness, oiliness, and umami (or sweetness).
My eggplant marinade includes soy sauce, sesame oil, dashi stock, and mirin. Cooking eggplants is simple, and the dish has a great flavour. So, I think today’s dish warrants the use of the word ‘mugen’ (無限).
What’s in My Infinite Eggplant (Mugen Nasu)
- Thin eggplants, stem trimmed off
- Oil to sauté eggplant (forgot to include oil in the photo above, sorry)
- Finely chopped green onions
For today’s recipe I strongly recommend using thin eggplant instead of large fat eggplant, so that each piece of eggplant has a skin on one side and white flesh on the other side. It will make cooking the eggplants easier.
My thin eggplants were 18-20cm/7-8″ long and about 4cm/1½” wide. You can use a fat and large eggplant if you can’t find thin ones, but you will need to quarter it vertically to make bite-size pieces. See how I cut the fat eggplant below. Score the eggplant after halving it.
You will also need slightly more oil and more time to cook them.
As per the definition of mugen dishes, the Marinade ingredients are pantry essentials.
- Soy sauce
- Dashi stock
- Sesame oil
- Chilli oil (optional)
I used Japanese chilli oil called rāyu, but you can also use Chinese chilli oil. Rāyu contains sesame oil and more aromatic, but it doesn’t make much difference in this recipe since sesame oil is included in the marinade.
How to make Infinite Eggplant (Mugen Nasu)
Although I wrote the marinade making first and the video also shows it first, you can make marinade while cooking eggplants.
Making Marinade (you can do this while cooking eggplants)
- Put 1 heaped tablespoon of green onions aside for garnish.
- Put all the Marinade ingredients and the rest of green onions into a microwave-safe container.
- Microwave at 600W for 50-60 seconds.
Preparing Eggplant and Making Mugen Nasu
- Halve each eggplant vertically.
- Score the skin side of the eggplant pieces, then cut each long piece into 4 short pieces.
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium low to low heat and cook the eggplant pieces, skin side down.
- Turn the eggplant over and cook with a lid on until the eggplant pieces become soft.
- Transfer the eggplants into an airtight container and add the marinade.
- Serve the eggplant with a small amount of marinade, then scatter the green onions on top.
To shorten the cooking time of the eggplant, I scored the skin-side of eggplant pieces diagonally. This will also allow the marinade flavour penetrate the eggplant better.
Because you will cook eggplants straight after cutting them into bite-size pieces, you don’t need to put them in water to prevent the white fresh from browning (oxidising).
The white eggplant flesh is extremely absorbent, and oil will be sucked into it quickly. Cooking the skin side first minimises the loss of the oil in the pan before the eggplant pieces are flipped over.
You can eat the eggplant as soon as you put the pieces in the marinade. It is also great to leave them in the fridge for a day or two.
Infinite Eggplant (Mugen Nasu) is a perfect side dish to go with rice. But you can also serve it on Somen (Japanese Cold Noodles) or vermicelli noodles with the marinade poured over them (photo below). The marinade becomes a dipping sauce for the noodles.
Watch How To Make It
I call it Infinite Eggplant because it is so good that you can eat it forever, i.e., infinitely. The vinegary, sweet soy flavour of the marinade goes so well with sautéed eggplant. It is a perfect side dish to go with rice. You can also serve it on Sōmen or vermicelli noodles with the marinade poured over them. See the video.
Use vegetarian dashi stock to make it vegan.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 3 thin eggplants (about 300g/0.7lb, note 1)
- 3 tbsp oil
Put 1 heaped tablespoon of green onions aside for serving.
Put all the Marinade ingredients and the rest of green onions in a microwave-safe container and mix.
Microwave at 600W for 50-60 seconds.
Trim the stem off each eggplant and halve it vertically.
Place halved eggplants on a cutting board facing the flesh side down. Score the skin side of each piece diagonally at 5mm/3⁄16" intervals. The incision should be about ⅔ deep.
Cut the scored piece crosswise into 4 bite-size pieces of similar length (note 2).
Heat oil in a large frying pan at medium low heat.
Place the eggplant pieces, skin side down (note 3), and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Turn them over and cook for a couple of minutes with a lid on, until the eggplant becomes very soft (note 4).
Immediately transfer the eggplant into a container and add the marinade while the eggplant pieces are hot.
Gently press down the eggplant pieces above the liquid to submerge them in the marinade as much as possible.
Transfer the eggplant with a couple of tablespoons of marinade to serving bowls (I had 24 pieces of eggplants, so 6 pieces in each serving bowl. Scatter green onions on top (note 5).
If you are not serving immediately, put a lid on the container and leave it in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can serve them warm, at room temperature, or cold.
1. Thin eggplants are the best for this dish. Depending on the length of your thin eggplant, you may need more than 4 eggplants. My thin eggplants were 18-20cm/7-8″ long and about 4cm/1½” wide.
You can use a large eggplant if you can’t get thin eggplant, but you will need to use more oil to cook the eggplant pieces.
2. Depending on the length of your whole eggplant, you may cut it into 3 or 5 pieces. The length of my eggplant pieces was about 4-5cm/2" long.
If you are using a large eggplant, after scoring the halved eggplant, halve it again vertically, then cut it crosswise into bite-size pieces. See the photo in the post.
3. The white eggplant flesh is extremely absorbent, and oil will be sucked into it quickly. Cooking the skin side first minimises the loss of the oil in the pan before the eggplant pieces are flipped over.
4. When you press a piece of eggplant, the eggplant flattens easily.
5. You can also serve eggplants on thin noodles such as Sōmen (see the photo in the post) or vermicelli.
7. Nutrition per serving. It assume that 3/4 of the marinade was not consumed, which is likely the case.
serving: 110g calories: 130kcal fat: 12g (15%) saturated fat: 0.8g (4%) trans fat: 0.1g polyunsaturated fat: 2.2g monounsaturated fat: 7.9g cholesterol: 0mg (0%) sodium: 174mg (8%) carbohydrates: 6.3g (2%) dietary fibre: 2.6g (9%) sugar: 3.8g protein: 1.3g vitamin D: 0mcg (0%) calcium: 17mg (1%) iron: 0.4mg (2%) potassium: 225mg (5%)