Vegan Unagi Don (Eggplant)

A vegan version of unagi don (grilled eel rice bowl). Soft, luscious eggplants and a sweet, savory sauce over a bed of rice.

In Japan, Grilled Eel is also known as Unagi no Kabayaki, which points to the specific preparation method (cut into square fillets, skewered, dipped in sauce, and grilled, etc) of fish such as eel. Unagi no Kabayaki is an extremely popular Japanese dish known for the soft, melt-in-your mouth eel meat paired with its sweet, savory, and umami sauce. Laid over a bed of fluffy rice, the sauce and the fish juices seep through to create the bowl of anyone’s dreams.

The unagi sauce is a grilling sauce marked by its bright sweet and savory flavors, as well as its caramelized undertones. While you can definitely find this in grocery stores, it is actually very easy to make. All you need is 4 main ingredients: soy sauce, mirin, sake (rice wine), and brown sugar. The sauce is relatively similar to teriyaki sauce, and entirely customizable as well. Feel free to adjust the proportions of each ingredient to your liking.


Vegan Unagi Don (Eggplant)

5 from 6 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: LunchCuisine: JapaneseDifficulty: Easy
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

A vegan version of unagi don (grilled eel rice bowl). Soft, luscious eggplants and a sweet, savory sauce over a bed of rice.

Ingredients

  • 2 Japanese or Chinese eggplants (long and slim)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for frying

  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

  • 1 scallion, finely sliced

  • Unagi Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons mirin

  • 2 teaspoon sake (rice wine)

  • 2 tablespoon dark brown sugar

Directions

  • Prepare the Eggplants. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). First, poke holes with a toothpick or a fork all around the eggplant — this will help the eggplant skin release after roasting. Roast the eggplants whole (without peeling) until their skins are blistered and the inside feels just soft, about 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant. Alternatively, you can microwave the eggplants to achieve a similar result. Place them on a microwave-safe plate, then cover with kitchen towel or a microwave cover and microwave until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Prepare Unagi Sauce. While the eggplants are roasting, prepare the unagi sauce by simply combining soy sauce, mirin, sake (rice wine), and brown sugar. Set aside.
  • Finish the Eggplants. When the eggplants are cooled down enough, peel the skins off carefully. Do 1 long incision to open up the eggplant, then do 1-2 more incisions to help flatten (if needed).
  • Glaze Eggplants. In a pan, heat ~1 tablespoon vegetable oil over high heat. Add the peeled eggplant (no-seed side down) and sear until beautifully charred on one side. Flip, and add the prepared sauce to glaze the eggplants. Reduce the sauce to a coating consistency while basting the eggplants with it. Once ready, serve immediately over freshly steamed white rice. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions.

Notes

  • Unagi Sauce: Typically, the sauce is made with a 1:1:1:1 ratio of each component. However, you can feel free to adjust the ratio to your own liking.

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Alice
Alice
9 months ago

These recipes are such a blessing. Thank you

Tessa
Tessa
6 months ago

Is there any substitute for the rice wine? For example, would Shaoxing wine or additional mirin work well? Thank you!

csm
csm
6 months ago

in my grocery store ‘mirin’ is also called ‘rice wine’. i bought both mirin and rice wine vinegar but would appreciate some clarification.. thanks!

Rose
Rose
5 months ago

Amazing and delicious. I love your output style and how you make these dishes so easy and to the point. Thank you!

Molly Mullins
Molly Mullins
4 months ago

This recipe was so simple and so delicious, thank you a million times over for veganizing so many wonderful recipes.

Tiffani
3 months ago

I’ve now made this “unagi” twice now and absolutely love it! I use it as a filling for vegan sushi rolls and reduce the excess sauce to drizzle on top. Delicious!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
3 months ago

Really enjoy making your recipes and I can’t wait to try this one as well!