Friday, October 24, 2014
I’ve known about David Chang’s food lab for some time, but I've never really known what takes place behind those closed doors. It seems that unlike other flavor companies (Givaudan comes to mind), who are asking “how can we mimic real food with synthetics?" Chang and his team are moving in the opposite direction. They're trying to tease even more umami out of ordinary raw ingredients. It’s a tantalizing project.
When I heard about Kaizen Trading Company, the food lab’s first real product line, I was eager to find out more. They've been introducing koji, the natural fermentor used to make miso and soy sauce, into other grains and legumes (chickpeas, sunflower seeds and rye). The result? Miso-like pastes of astonishingly depth called hozon, and a rye bonji (in the style of soy sauce) that has a tantalizing sweetness; I would gladly drink it straight from the bottle.
But what to do with hozon? My first attempt (after simply gobbling it up by the spoonful), was to substitute it for miso in one of my favorite Japanese dishes, nasu no dengaku. I ended up with that same seductively soft flesh infused with something more complex than ordinary miso.I can't wait to try hozon in other dishes: I've been thinking about that misobutter corn I've always loved so much at Saam Bar.
Hozon isn’t yet available to consumers (except via Quinciple), but I'm hoping they'll hurry this great product into production.
(I used small italian eggplants for the photograph above, but only because I couldn't find any Japanese eggplants. They'd work better.)
4 Japanese eggplants
2 Tablespoons hozon or miso
1 Tablespoon sake
1 Tablespoon mirin
1 Tablespoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 425.
Halve the eggplants. Using a sharp knife, score each cut side deeply, making sure not to cut through the skin. Salt well and let sit for 15 or 20 minutes.
Dry the eggplant thoroughly. Brush a fair amount of vegetable oil on all sides of the eggplant and arrange them, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast until the flesh is completely tender, which should take 15 or 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your glaze by mixing together the hozon, sake, mirin and sugar.
When the eggplant is perfectly roasted, turn it over in the pan and brush on the glaze. Turn on the broiler.
Broil the eggplant for one minute and then pull out to check. You want a golden color--for the glaze to be lightly caramelized; if it is not quite golden, return it to the broiler for another 30 seconds or so.