When you eat a mouthful of Shrimp Flavoured Steamed Eggplant, you will be amazed that simple steamed eggplant can taste so good. The sauce mixed with the toppings contains plenty of umami from the dried shrimp. It is by far the most flavoursome steamed eggplant in my view.
Japanese people often eat steamed eggplant with grated ginger and soy sauce (or ponzu dressing) just like the grilled eggplant in my recipe, Grilled Japanese Eggplants.
But the shrimp flavoured sauce in today’s dish brings a plain steamed eggplant up to the next level. The sauce is so tasty.
About Dried Shrimp and Sakura Ebi (Japanese Baby Shrimps)
Dried shrimp are sun-dried shrimp and usually very small (about 1.5cm / ⅝”). They are widely used in Asian countries including Japan.
There are two distinct types of dried shrimp you can buy from Asian grocery stores.
- Meaty shrimp with no shells (right photo above). The colour of the shrimps is close to orange. You need to soak and soften them before use. This type of dried shrimp is not usually used in traditional Japanese cooking.
- Paper-thin baby shrimp that retain the whole body of a shrimp including the shells (left photo above). The colour of the shrimp is orangish or pinkish. They are sun-dried either after boiling them or without even boiling them. You don’t need to soak them to use them.
The Japanese version of paper-thin baby shrimp has a pretty name, ‘sakura ebi’ (桜海老), which means cherry blossom shrimp. It gained such a name due to the reddish pink colour of the shrimp (see the photo below).
To distinguish the paper-thin dried shrimp from the meaty ones, they are called ‘hoshi sakura ebi’ (干し桜海老) and ‘hoshi ebi’ (干し海老) in Japanese respectively. The word ‘hoshi’ (干し) means dried and ‘ebi’ (海老) is shrimp.
In Sydney, I could not find sakura ebi anywhere. But I found dried paper-thin shrimp from Asian grocery stores that are similar to hoshi sakura ebi. The Korean version of paper-thin dried shrimps, which I used today, is close to the Japanese version. The colour of the shrimp is a bit different, though.
What’s in my Shrimp Flavoured Steamed Eggplant
With the exception of the eggplant, all ingredients in the list below are for the sauce and toppings to go over the eggplant.
- Dried shrimp – paper-thin dried shrimp
- Green onions, finely chopped
- Soy sauce
- Shiro dashi
- Sesame oil
- Grated ginger
The eggplant can be large eggplant (most commonly available eggplant in Australia), long skinny eggplant, or short eggplant.
The dried shrimp are grated into powder. So, you need paper-thin dried baby shrimp, not meaty dried shrimp.
How to make Shrimp Flavoured Steamed Eggplant
This is a very simple dish and takes only the time to cut and steam the eggplant.
- Peel and cut eggplant into long wedges.
- Steam the eggplant.
- Toast the dried shrimp in a frying pan to remove the moisture, then grind them.
- Mix the Soy-Sesame Dressing ingredients.
- Plate the steamed eggplant, pour over the dressing. Scatter shrimp powder and green onions over the eggplants.
I made long eggplant wedges by vertically cutting the eggplant. Steamed eggplant is very easy to cut even with chopsticks. So, there is no need to make the eggplant wedges shorter. However, if you prefer you can halve the length before steaming. Here is the sample serving with short eggplant wedges.
What to do with leftover Paper-thin Dried Shrimp
There are many uses for dried shrimp, although I have never used them in the recipes I have published so far.
Firstly, dried shrimp can keep about a month in the fridge. You can also freeze them for a few months. They are so thin that you can use the frozen dried shrimp without thawing when cooking.
Dried shrimp are sometimes added to Okonomiyaki. Using my Okonomiyaki recipe, scatter dried shrimp instead of (or in addition to) the bonito flakes put on the sliced pork. It will boost the umami flavour of your Okonomiyaki.
In my Kakiage (Mixed Vegetable Tempura) recipe, I used dried anchovies mixed with vegetables. You can use dried shrimp instead of anchovies. The Kakiage will have quite a different flavour.
When I have an opportunity, I will post some dishes using dried shrimp.
When you eat a mouthful of Shrimp Flavoured Steamed Eggplant, you will be amazed that simple steamed eggplant can taste so good. The sauce and the toppings are packed with umami from the dried shrimp. It is by far the most flavoursome steamed eggplant in my view.
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.
NOTE: In making my Shrimp Flavoured Steamed Eggplant, I referenced the recipe in the Japanese cooking website, ORYOURIMATOME, https://oryouri-matome.com/easy-good/recipe1027.html. The quantity of the ingredients was changed to suit to my palate. The original recipe uses a microwave to steam the eggplant, but I changed it to use a steamer. However, I have included the microwave method in the notes.
- 400g / 0.9lb eggplant (I used 2 large eggplants, note 1)
- 2 tbsp dried shrimp (paper-thin dried shrimps, note 2)
- 3 tbsp green onions , finely chopped
- 2-3 tsp soy sauce (note 3)
- ½ tbsp shiro dashi (note 4)
- ½ tbsp dark sesame oil
- ⅛ tsp grated ginger
Cut the stem off the eggplant and peel the skin. Halve the eggplant vertically, then quarter each half vertically to make long wedges (note 5).
Place the eggplant wedges in a steamer, without overlapping. Steam for 10 minutes (note 5). The eggplant pieces should be soft and limp when picked up.
If the eggplant is very wet, gently squeeze the eggplant pieces to get some water out. Cool them down slightly.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Scatter the dried shrimp and dry roast them for a couple of minutes. Transfer the shrimp to mortar and pestle, grind them until they become coarse powder.
Put all the Soy-Sesame Dressing ingredients in a jar/bowl and mix well.
Plate the eggplants on a serving plate, making a flat mound. Pour the Soy-Sesame Dressing, scatter the green onions and the shrimp powder.
1. Instead of large fat eggplant, you can use skinny eggplant or short eggplant.
2. Paper-thin dried shrimps are called ‘sakura ebi’ (桜海老) in Japanese. They are different from the meaty dried shrimps (see the photo in the post comparing these).
In Sydney, you probably can't find sakura ebi. But you can buy paper-thin dried shrimp at Asian grocery stores that are similar to sakura ebi. I used dried shrimp made in Korea in this recipe. Please see the sample photos in the post.
3. The original recipe called for 3 teaspoons, but I found that it was a bit too salty to my palate. You can always measure 2 teaspoons, then add extra later if necessary.
4. If you don’t have shiro dashi, I recommend using a strong dashi stock combined with mirin and salt instead. In place of ½ tbsp of shiro dashi, combine ⅛ tsp granular dashi powder, ½ tsp warm water, ½ tsp mirin, and a pinch of salt.
5. If you prefer shorter wedges, you can halve the length of the wedges.
6. Instead of using a steamer to cook the eggplant pieces, you can microwave them. But the steamer cooks the eggplant more evenly than a microwave.
To cook eggplant using a microwave, spread the eggplant pieces on a microwave-safe plate without overlapping, splash on a small amount of water, then cover with cling wrap. Microwave for 7 minutes at 600W.
7. Nutritions per serving.
serving: 121g calories: 57kcal fat: 2g (4%) saturated fat: g (%) trans fat: 0g polyunsaturated fat: g monounsaturated fat: g cholesterol: 9.2mg (9%) sodium: 244mg (10%) potassium: 266mg (7%) carbohydrates: 7.4g (2%) dietary fibre: 3.1g (13%) sugar: 4.4g protein: 2.4g vitamin a: 0% vitamin c: 5.3% calcium: 0.9% iron: 3.1%