Tag: Eel

Notable Nosh: Unagi

Unagi 1

Who remembers the ‘Friends’ episode when Ross boasts to Rachel of his skill in the Japanese martial arts awareness technique of ‘Unagi’?  Of course, Ross got it wrong, for Unagi is actually the Japanese word for the freshwater eel that is frequently barbecued, and often included as a sushi offering.

Saltwater eel is also found in Japanese cuisine, where it is known as ‘Anago’, but it is less common (at least in the west), and not generally cooked in the sweetish Kabayaki sauce (very like Teriyaki Sauce) common with Unagi … Eel, by the way, does not generally appear as a (raw) sashimi and in sushi, and other preparations, is invariably cooked, generally by slow-simmering, occasionally followed by grilling.

Anyway, above you see Unagi as part of a Nigiri Suhsi offering I had at Hokkaido Sushi in Ottawa. It certainly isn’t the prettiest presentation I have ever been served but it was genuinely tasty. The fish was just a tiny bit drier than it should be but the sauce was delicately used and the full, very umami taste of the fish shone through perfectly. Many people tend to shy away from eel, despite being perfectly comfortable with other fish, but this worth trying…

Notable Nosh: Unagi

Nosh - Unagi

Unagi, or freshwater eel, is a Japanese delicacy I have enjoyed many times and I thought I would share my most recent experience of it with you here. Japanese cuisine also makes use of sea eel (or ‘anago’) but you tend to find unagi appearing much more frequently on the menu at Japanese restaurants.

Like octopus and a few other fish products, unagi is always cooked, even in sashimi or sushi preparations. The cooking generally involves grilling but the eel is also sometimes steamed first. Often (indeed, every time I have ever had it) a sweetish glaze is added before grilling, but there is also a ‘shirayaki’ or ‘white-grilled’ version that does without. The glaze, when used, is often a Teriyaki sauce type preparation but here, on this particular occasion, I rather think that actual Eel Sauce formed the glaze. This is more than simply a sauce prepared for eel; it actually contains an extract from eel in the same way oyster sauce contains oyster extract and it has the same sort of sweet, umami flavor.

Although the sashimi and sushi pieces I ordered came plated very prettily with shiso leaf, shredded daikon, pickled ginger and wasabi, I didn’t think the eel was nearly as good as usual. It may have been due to overcooking but, in any event, I found the flesh really quite pallid and lacking in texture. Without the sauce, there probably wouldn’t have been a great deal of flavor and, on this occasion, the ginger and some soy were welcome additions. Normally though, I really enjoy this dish and, if you enjoy grilled fish you really should give it a try…