My favorite Japanese cookbook is “Japanese cooking: a simple art” by Shizuo Tsuji. Since some ingredients are hard to come by outside of Japan and because I don’t have a very good reference (unlike Italian food, in many cases I don’t have a clue what it is supposed to taste like) I haven’t cooked as much out of this book as I would like to. One of my favorite recipes from the book that I have cooked many times before is the chicken loaf. Here I’ve served it with roasted eggplant, a ginger-soy dipping sauce and Japanese rice. This recipe is delicious, surprisingly easy to make and does not require ingredients that are difficult to obtain. So I urge you to give this a try! Here’s my version, in which I have simplified some of the steps. I have not noticed any difference in taste with the original recipe.
For 4 servings
450 grams (1 pound) chicken thigh meat, or ground chicken
3 Tbsp saké
3 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
Japanese soy sauce
5 cm (2 inches) fresh ginger
2 tsp sesame seeds or white poppy seeds
Cut the eggplant into 1 cm (1/3 inch) slices, arrange them on paper towels and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Let stand for about an hour.
Meanwhile, if using chicken thigh meat, cut the meat into pieces and put into the food processor.
Process until ground. Or use ground chicken.
Sauté half the ground chicken with 3 Tbsp saké over high heat until whitish.
Spread in a sieve or colander to drain and cool. Tsuji advises to precook half the meat this way to keep the whole loaf from shrinking during baking.
In a bowl, beat the egg with 2 egg yolks. Add the other half of the ground chicken and mix with a fork.
Peel and grate part of the ginger and squeeze to obtain 1 tsp fresh ginger juice.
Add 1/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp sugar, 3 Tbsp Japanese soy sauce, pan-cooked meat and 1 tsp fresh ginger juice to the mixture, mixing well between additions.
Brush a baking dish (approximately 20 x 20 cm or 8″ by 8″) with sesame oil. Spread the meat mixture into the baking dish. Preheat the oven to 225C/440F.
Wipe the eggplant slices clean with a paper towel. Cut them into quarters and brush them with sesame oil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer.
Bake/roast the meatloaf and eggplant for 30 minutes at 225C/440F. Turn the eggplant slices halfway. After 25 minutes, brush the top of the meatlof with the remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds (preferably toasted).
Meanwhile, cook the Japanese rice according to package instructions.
Remove the meatloaf from the baking dish and put on a cutting board. Cut into 8 x 8 squares of 2,5 x 2,5 cm (1″ by 1″) each.
Serve meatloaf squares (one serving = 8 squares) with eggplant slices, Japanese rice and a dipping sauce of Japanese soy sauce with grated ginger.
Because of the ginger, this pairs well with a dry gewürztraminer from Alto Adige (Italy) or Alsace (France).