Gaji Namul is a simple, tasty Korean side dish (banchan) made of steamed eggplant strips and seasonings.
- 2 medium-sized Asian eggplants* (long, thin, firm and bright purple)
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kochukaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
- Pinch salt and pepper
- Cut the eggplants into quarters (or smaller, depending on the width of the eggplant) and then into 2-inch pieces.
- Steam in the steamer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is soft enough to pierce easily with a fork.
- Remove from steamer and toss with seasonings and spices.
- Cool to room temperature before serving as a side dish.
*You can use other types of eggplant to make this dish, but you might want to salt the eggplant before steaming to reduce skin bitterness.
The Chinese eggplant is ideal for this recipe because its skin is tender and not bitter.
Some Health Facts and History of Eggplant
Eggplants are a good source of dietary fiber, B-vitamins, magnesium, and manganese. They are also a low-fat, low-calorie and low-carb food.
From Livestrong.com: “Magnesium helps nerves function normal and your heartbeat regular. Also, magnesium maintains a strong immune system which fights against bacteria and viruses that enter your body, according to the National Institutes of Health. Manganese, also found in your bones, helps your body form blood-clotting and sex hormones on top of helping fat and carbohydrate metabolism, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.”
From Whfoods.com: “Research on eggplant has focused on an anthocyanin phytonutrient found in eggplant skin called nasunin. Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage. In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform.”
Some Eggplant Facts and History
To people today, the eggplant looks nothing like an egg. But it's not actually a misnomer. The first eggplants to reach Europe (from the Arabs during the Middle Ages) was actually a white species of the plant, with oval-ish fruits that did look like large eggs.
So the name stuck, even though the most common purple versions also eventually made their way to Europe.
The eggplant is technically a fruit, but it is almost always used as a vegetable in cooking. Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family that also includes the poisonous Jimson weed or Datura as well as Belladonna, also poisonous and sometimes called Deadly Nightshade. The eggplant also contains some toxins during its immature growth stage. The eggplant was once known as the “mad apple” because some believed that eating it could cause insanity.