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Gaji-namul, Korean Style Steamed & Seasoned Eggplants,

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quick n easy
nut free
prep time: 
5 min
inactive time: 
0 min
cooking time: 
15 min
total time: 
20 min

Gaji Namul (steamed and seasoned eggplant, Korean style) is a delectable banchan (Korean side dish) that also can be served as a salad or appetizer. This recipe brings out the best in eggplant. The eggplants are just lightly steamed so you can really enjoy their taste without an overly mushy texture. The seasoning is also flavorful while not over-powering.

Gaji Namul is one of the traditional Korean namuls which have been widely enjoyed by Koreans for many years. (Namul refers to Korean vegetable side dishes, usually blanched or sautéed, and seasoned.) According to historical documents, Gaji Namul was part of Korean cuisine in the Josun Dynasty (1392-1910), but it probably originated a long time before that. Gaji Namul is also one of the 9 namuls eaten on Jeongwal Daeboreum ("Full Moon in January," January 15 in lunar calendar, one of the 4 major Korean traditional holidays).

Today, Gaji Namul is part of Korea's everyday banchan (side dish). Steaming and seasoning eggplants are the most common cooking methods used for this dish. But it can also be stir-fried. Most Gaji-Namul variations differ only in amounts of seasonings. Some Koreans don't use vinegar or gochugaru in the dish.

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Eggplant 가지
2 tbsSoy Sauce (regular) 왜간장
1 tspGarlic (minced) 다진 마늘
Green Onion 파
2 tspSesame Seeds 깨
1 tbsSesame Oil 참기름
½ tspGochugaru, Korean Hot Pepper Flakes 고추가루 (optional)
1½ tspVinegar 식초 (optional)

Good to Know

Types of Eggplant
Korean (or Asian) eggplant is used in this recipe. One Korean eggplant weights between 150-230g. In this recipe, two Korean eggplants were used for 2 servings and they were 385g all together. So, depending on the size of your eggplant, you may have to change the amount of seasoning.

You can use regular North American eggplants as well.
Korean eggplants are milder, less bitter and more tender in texture. They are longer and thinner, and often lighter in color than North American eggplants.

Steaming Eggplant
The most traditional method would be the good old steamer with water at the bottom. The key here is to steam eggplants just until they become soft, and then take them off the heat immediately. If they are steamed too long, they become overly mushy and shapeless. The skin also loses the beautiful purple color. If you don't steam long enough, it will be too tough to eat. It may take a little experimentation to determine your preference for optimal softness.

You can also steam them on top of rice if you are cooking rice with it. Just add cut eggplants in the last 5 minutes of the rice cooking process.

Many Korean moms cook eggplants in a microwave as well because it's quick and easy. For microwave cooking, place the cut eggplants on a plate and pour in a little water to cover just the bottom. Make sure to cover it with a microwave-safe lid or wrap. Cook for 3-7 min depending on the strength of the microwave.

Optional Ingredients and Substitutions

Vinegar: Some Koreans don't use vinegar for Gaji Namul. So, you can leave it out. Vinegar does, however, add a nice refreshing touch to the dish. You can also change the amount of vinegar according to your personal preference.

Gochugaru, Red Chili Flakes: Can omit this if you absolutely cannot tolerate chili flakes.

Sesame Seeds: If you can, use ground sesame seeds for more flavorful Gaji Namul. Sesame seeds in this dish are key. But if you cannot source them you can get away with just sesame oil.

More questions? Please leave your questions below in the comments section. We will do our best to answer as soon as we can.

Ingredient amounts in the recipe instructions are for the default serving size.
Click to enlarge photos.
Ingredient amounts in the recipe summary are for the default serving size.

1. Wash

Wash 2 eggplants thoroughly and cut off the green top. Cut the egg plants into 2-3 pieces. Then each piece into halves again the long way.

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Wash thoroughly

  • 2 eggplants

Cut off top

2. Steam

Prepare a steamer. Fill the base of your steamer with water (2-3 cups) and boil. When boiling water starts to produce steam, place eggplants in the steaming basket. Steam on high heat with the lid on for 5 minutes or until they become soft. Transfer onto a plate or a bowl to cool them down. See tips above for microwave steaming and other options.

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Prepare steamer

  • fill base with water
  • boil

Steam egg plant

  • close lid
  • High Heat image: highheat.png image: clock.png 5 min

3. Chop green onion

Chop 1 green onion.

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1 green onion

4. Seasoning sauce

While steaming eggplants, mix 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, chopped green onion, 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1½ teaspoon of vinegar and ½ teaspoon of red chili flakes (optional).

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  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1½ tsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes (optional)

5. Tear Steamed Eggplants

Tear the eggplants into ½ inch strips by hand. Try to leave some skin on each strip for color and texture.

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  • ½ inch strips

6. Mix

Pour the seasoning sauce over the eggplants. Mix them very gently by hand.

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  • seasoning sauce and eggplants
  • gently

7. Serve

Serve on a side dish plate. Enjoy!

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