Have you tried eel before? What about Japanese eel? If not, a trip to Nagoya is well worth it, just to try their deliciously prepared freshwater eel (unagi) delicacy! The Japanese eel, Anguilla Japonica (Nihon unagi) is a type of freshwater eel which has gained a lot of popularity in Japanese society and has become a common ingredient in Japanese cooking.
Traditionally, especially in summer, unagi used to be a common night-time snack as the family gathered for dinner and because of this, not only is unagi popular for its nutritional value, it has also become a symbol of family togetherness. Although unagi was inexpensive in the past, it is now deemed as one of the most luxurious Japanese delicacies. Here are some ways you can enjoy a delicious unagi feast on your travels around Japan!
Unagi is most commonly enjoyed as an unadon, which is grilled unagi served on top of a bowl of rice. Simple and delicious! However, another famous and unique way to enjoy this delicious delicacy in Nagoya is with Japanese green tea (ocha). The local dish is called Hitsumabushi and although it may seem expensive, it is most definitely worth the experience. “Hitsu” refers to the wooden container the meal is served in, while “mabushi” refers to the act of mixing the unagi into the rice.
Hitsumabushi is divided into four portions and enjoying in the following unique process:
- Spoon out the first portion into your bowl, mixing the eel and the rice and enjoy as it is.
- Spoon out the second portion and add condiments such as wasabi, green onion, powdered chilli, and dried seaweed (nori) and enjoy all the different flavors.
- Spoon out the third portion, add condiments as per the previous step but also pour Japanese green tea (ocha) over it as well, which is like ochazuke (greentea over rice), and enjoy.
- Spoon out the last portion and enjoy by repeating any of the above methods that you felt was the most delicious!
This eel-flavored pie snack has been a famous Hamamatsu souvenir since 1961 and although the procedure and the product itself seem simple, it took over ten years to be recognized as professional Unagipie Artisans. Unagi pie soon became a popular night snack (yoru no okashi 夜のお菓子) with its unique combination of flavors including eel extract, garlic, butter, and honey. Some of the popular flavors are original, peanuts, and the unique VSOP which has a rich aroma of brandy flavor. Also, even though eel is the featured ingredient, the eel flavor is very subtle and because only an extract is used, it’s not very pricey either. So, if you’re looking for something a little different to take home to surprise your friends and family, these are the perfect souvenirs!
It is simply amazing how the Japanese freshwater eel has been used in so many different ways to create such a delicious delicacy. This is only one example of how the Japanese culture and their passion and skills can be seen through their authentic dishes. So, if you’re traveling to Japan this year, be sure to enjoy a delicious feast of authentic Japanese unagi!