- Whisk together unagi sauce and lime ponzu in a small bowl to desired consistency.
- Poke several holes in eggplants with the tip of a knife. Roast eggplants in an oven set to 400°F for approximately 30 minutes, or until skin is blistered and eggplant is soft.
- Allow eggplant to cool enough to handle. Peel off skin but leave the stem end attached. Cut a long incision the length of eggplants but not all the way through.
- Open eggplant to butterfly, then make an incision the length of each half to open and flatten it like a whole filet of eel.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and brush with peanut-sesame oil blend. Place eggplant, seed side down, on a sheet pan. Brush with unagi sauce and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until sauce starts to bubble. Brush with more unagi sauce and repeat the process until the eggplant looks like lacquered unagi eel.
- Combine rinsed rice and cool water in a saucepot. Turn heat to medium high and bring water to a simmer. Turn heat to low, cover, and continue cooking another 15 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and water is absorbed.
- Remove pot from the burner, keep covered and allow rice to cool for 15 minutes.
- Take the rice out of the pot and into a large bowl and gently fluff with a rice spoon to separate the grains. Add vinegar, sugar and salt, and continue fluffing until well blended.
- Allow rice to cool.
- Dip your hands in water and pinch approximately 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons of rice. Place rice in the cradle of your palm and press it with your fingers to lightly compress it into a rectangular pod shape roughly 2 inches long X ¾ inches tall. Repeat to make as many pods as you need.
- Pour peanut-sesame oil blend into a cast iron skillet so that it is ¼ inch deep and heat the oil.
- Add rice pods to oil and lightly fry so it is not all the way crispy, then remove from the oil and cool just enough to handle. Press down the rice gently with your hand to “break” the pod, but so it still holds its shape.
- Transfer crispy rice pods to a paper towel to blot away residual oil.
Cutting and Finishing Eggplant Unagi
- Cut eggplant unagi lengthwise into long strips resembling eel loins approximately 2-inches wide.
- Cut each loin into ½-inch slices at a 45° angle. Place 2 slices on a small square of foil, brush with unagi sauce and broil for 30 seconds.
- Arrange on top of nigiri pods and wrap each with a strip of nori to secure.
- Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions.
As presented at Flavor Experience 2022 in partnership with Chef Andrew Hunter.