Eel seafood has been popular in Japan since the 17th century. Once upon a time, eel seafood used to be specialty seafood, sold at rather expensive prices. Today, eel seafood has become traditional at Japanese homes and restaurants, and the price of it is reasonable enough. Nevertheless, many Japanese restaurants offer eel seafood as specialty seafood, since it is a delicious and delicate treat to both: foreigners and locals.
The Japanese have invented various methods of eel seafood cooking, as they do with each food they prepare. No matter how eel seafood is cooked, it is delicious and rich in many essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, eel seafood recipes are easy and quick to prepare, which makes them suitable for your home cooking.
The Japanese call eel fish unagi, and a common unagi dish is unagi no kaba-yaki (grilled eel). You should prepare unagi meat (remove the main bone), skewer and grill it with a sweet basting sauce. Unagi no kabayaki is available at many stores in Japan, and most people in Japan buy it instead of making unagi no kabayaki themselves. Before eating kabayaki, they only have to reheat it with the kabayaki sauce. To make your own kabayaki sauce, mix 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/2 of mirin and 1/4 cup of sugar in a pan and simmer it until thicken.
There is a slight difference between eastern and western ways of cooking kabayaki in Japan. In eastern Japan, unagi is steamed after it is grilled and, then, the fish is grilled again. The locals of the western part of Japan do not steam unagi. Therefore, unagi no kabayaki in eastern Japan is softer than that of western Japan. Grilled unagi without basting sauce is called shira-yaki, since it is white. (shira means "white" in Japanese.) When unagi is grilled over charcoals, the fat from the unagi drips and burns, causing the smoke. The smoke adds a flagrant aroma to unagi.
Traditionally, the Japanese serve unagi no kabayaki over plain rice as a main dish. It is called either una-juu or una-don. Clear soup (suimono), made from unagi liver, is called kimo-sui and is served on the side.
Consider two simple dishes you can make with unagi no kabayaki.
Uzaku (unagi salad)
Ingredients: 1 skewered unagi no kabayaki (cold), 2 cucumbers, 3 tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp soy sauce.
Preparation: Cut unagi no kabayaki into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice cucumbers into rounds. Put cucumber slices and unagi pieces on a plate. Mix soy sauce, sugar and vinegar together and pour over the cucumber and unagi.
Unagi Stir fry
Ingredients: 1 skewered unagi no kabayaki, 1 green pepper, 3 shiitake mushrooms, 3 tbsp mirin, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp sake, 1 tbsp vegetable oil.
Preparation: Cut green pepper, shiitake and unagi into bite-sized pieces. Heat oil in a pan. Sauté green pepper and shiitake, and then add unagi in the pan. Pour mirin, soy sauce and sake mixture in the pan and sauté the ingredients for a minute.
It is interesting to note that eel seafood is not only the delicacy in many countries, but also the fish population with a mysterious life cycle. Eels live in fresh water from fifteen to twenty years, then, turning from yellowish green to silver, swim far out into the Atlantic Ocean and are believed to spawn somewhere in the vast kelp bed of the Sargasso Sea.
However, today the eel population tends to decrease for the unknown reasons (suppositional reasons are the global warming, a parasite or virus in the breeding zone). As a result, the eel fish price has tripled in the last three years in Europe and is supposed to grow more. The scientists predict that the population will survive, but commercial fishing will be impossible soon.