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Spicy Tuna Crispy Eggplant Bites

This appetizer will have everyone asking for the recipe! It’s based on a beloved “secret menu item” from San Diego’s Sushi Ota (IYKYK) and surprisingly easy to make with boxed tempura mix. When fried, eggplant becomes meltingly tender, which is part of what gives these bites their luxurious mouthfeel. For even more umami, we used bluefin tuna and finished things off with some eel sauce. The combination is insanely good. Recipe by Lindsay Evans Smith (LindsayEats) for Catalina Offshore Products.


  • 2 Japanese eggplants, sliced on a bias (approx 12 slices)
  • 1/2 lb sashimi grade skin off bluefin (or ahi), minced
  • 2 Tbsp scallions, thinly sliced, half reserved
  • 1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1/2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Kewpie mayo
  • Kikkoman Tempura Batter Mix (or your preference)
  • About 8 oz avocado oil for frying
  • Eel Sauce


  1. Sprinkle eggplant slices (both sides) with about 2 pinches of salt. Set aside on paper towels, to let moisture absorb.
  2. In a bowl mix together minced tuna with 1 Tbsp of scallions plus the soy sauce, Sriracha, rice wine vinegar and mayo. Set in fridge until ready to use
  3. Prepare a wire rack over paper towels for fried eggplant to rest on.
  4. Fill the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or frying pan about 1/4-1/2 inch deep with avocado oil. Heat on medium high heat until the oil starts to shimmer (or until a test dollop of tempura batter sizzles).
  5. While the oil is heating, prepare your tempura batter according to the directions on the box.
  6. When oil is ready, work with the eggplant in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Using tongs, dip eggplant slices in tempura batter and place in the hot oil, making sure not to let the batter stick to the bottom. Flip each slice when underside is golden brown. When the slices are entirely golden, remove to wire rack. Repeat process with remaining slices.
  7. Top each slice of fried eggplant with a spoonful of the spicy tuna mixture, followed by a drizzle of eel sauce. Garnish with green onion or tobiko, if you wish.

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