11 In Main Dish/ Rice/ Seafood

Unagi Don (Unadon) Recipe

Unagi Don (Unagidon) Recipe

Unagi Don (Unagidon) Recipe

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!

Unagi (Japanese fresh water eel)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!?)

Unagi Don (Unadon) Recipe

Yield: 2

Serving Size: 2


  • 1 fillet of unagi (vacuum-sealed)
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • Steamed Rice
  • Sauce
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) mirin
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • Sansyo (optional)


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Unagi Don (Unagidon) Recipe

Unagi Don (Unagidon) Recipe


Unagi Don (Unagidon) Recipe

Some sauce before placing unagi…

Unagi Don (Unagidon) Recipe

and some more sauce over unagi

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  • Dee
    October 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Looks good, If I have access to fresh water eel, is the process the same or what do I need to season the meat first before cooking. Thank you

    • Noriko
      October 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      You mean raw eel? To be honest, I’ve never cooked raw eel before. It sounds like you don’t season before grilling, but you eat it with sauce.

  • Joy
    December 1, 2013 at 9:49 am

    This was FANTASTIC. I haven’t had any better anywhere (but then I haven’t had it along the lake!). Thanks for the great recipe – very easy to follow.

    • Noriko
      December 1, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks, and come back for more recipes!

  • Kelly
    April 2, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    it looks really delicious! How long can it be kept in fridge? can I kept overnight and make it a lunch for tomorrow?

  • Greg
    May 4, 2014 at 9:44 am

    I just started making Unagi rolls and have a question about the unagi. Am I supposed to remove the blackened portion underneath the fillets? I don’t recall seeing it when I order from a restaurant. The sauce is delicious and so easy I will never buy a store made brand.
    Thanks, Greg.

    • Noriko
      May 6, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      you don’t have to remove the skin, but depending on how it’s cooked and the quality of the fish, it may taste rubbery.

  • Riley
    May 6, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks so much! My goal is to study abroad in japan and cooking these dishes makes the goal not seem so far away.

    • Noriko
      May 6, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      you can cook Japanese food in anywhere!

  • gebhonce
    January 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    im gonna try to cook this.. unagi or the fresh water eel also known as “kasili” can found in the philippines..

  • Sofia
    February 14, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I just tried this dish tonight, and it is so good, I am so pleased with it. It’s so much easier to make then I thought that it was going to be. I had tried it a long while back and when I took that first bite I remembered everything that I liked about it lol.