As exotic as it may sound, I’m sure most of you have tried unagi (Japanese freshwater eel) at least once. Unagi sushi is a very popular item at Japanese restaurants in the U.S. Since the fish is cooked, with sweet sauce glazed on top, it can be an entry point to the world of sushi for many beginners.
Unagi is one of the most popular and also luxurious fish in Japan. Good unagi is expensive and considered as delicacy. Yet, instead of eating just a slice or two on a tiny piece of sushi rice, we tend to eat almost half a fillet on a bed of rice in Donburi (big rice bowl!) While people in Japan can make most seafood at home, we almost always buy cooked unagi at stores or restaurants. It is very rare to see fresh eels at regular stores. It requires special skills to fillet, debone, skewer, and grill to perfection.
Most unagi these days are farm raised. There are many famous and popular restaurants that specialize only in unagi throughout Japan, especially near the lakes where unagi is raised. You can see many people lining up around lunch time and many of them drive from miles away seeking the best quality unagi. The taste of fresh Unagi Don near the lake is heavenly… I still dream about that flavor even though it was years ago!
We can buy vacuum-sealed grilled unagi at Asian markets or online, e.g., U.S. fresh seafood delivery services. We recommend Catalina Offshore Products. All you have to do is to reheat the unagi fillet in the oven with some sprinkles of sake. Place it on top of rice and generously pour the sauce over. While you can also buy the unagi sauce at the store, making one is so easy! The sweet and salty sauce poured over freshly-made steamed rice… it’s so good that you can even skip unagi (what’s the point of this recipe then!?)
- 1 fillet of unagi (vacuum-sealed)
- 1 tbsp sake
- Steamed Rice
- 1/2 cup (120ml) soy sauce
- 1/3 cup (80ml) mirin
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp sake
- Sansyo (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425F (218C.) Cut unagi fillet into 4 pieces and place them on the baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle sake on the surface of the unagi and bake in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes until heated.
- In a small sauce pan, mix all the ingredients of the sauce and bring it to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened.
- Place steamed rice in an individual bowl, sprinkle about a tbsp of sauce over the rice, and top with cooked unagi on top. Pour some sauce on top of the fish. Sprinkle on Sansyo Japanese pepper on top (optional.) Serve immediately.