Unagi – Freshwater eels in Japanese cuisine

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Have you eaten unagi? That's the Japanese word for freshwater eels, especially the Japanese one. This is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine, so let's talk a little about these eels and their various dishes and preparations in Japanese cuisine that Detective Conan's Genta loves so much. Regarding saltwater eels, their name is Anago (穴子).

Eels usually make a long migration and can live up to 30 years. Despite being called a freshwater eel, it spends a lot of time in the sea and then goes to rivers. Unfortunately, Japanese eel production is low, much of it ends up being imported from other countries such as China and Taiwan. Unagi is rich in protein, vitamins A, B1 and calcium, this dish is popular in summer because its proteins are believed to help fight summer fatigue.

For some it may be difficult to like eels, due to their stickiness. Fortunately, the Japanese also manage to make unagi delicious, as they do with other dishes. There are several ways to eat these eels, a popular one that might please most people is grilled with a sauce on a skewer. The eel surprises with its flavor and texture that tickles and melts in your mouth. Another common way for Westerners to end up trying unagi is through sushi.

Unagi - freshwater eels in Japanese cuisine

Different ways to eat Unagi

We have already talked a little about eating a grilled eel, which is usually eaten with pickles and rice. Another very popular way to eat unagi is with unadon, consists of a bowl of rice topped with unagi. Eel is not eaten raw, as eating raw freshwater fish is not safe. unakyu is a term used for cooked eel and cucumber sushi.

There are different ways to prepare and cook unagi. When it is filleted, boned and grilled, we usually call it kabayaki. When it is cooked without the sauce with just salt, it is called shirayaki. Another very popular way to prepare it is to make omelets called Umaki. The eel slices are wrapped around the omelet.

The Japanese even eat the bones of eels in a dish called Hone Senbei. Using the unagi's long backbone, you create something crispy, light and salty. They also eat the liver of the eel grilled in a dish called kimoyaki or in the form of a soup called kimosui.

Unagi - freshwater eels in Japanese cuisine

There are thousands of other ways to eat unagi, whether as a specialty or as an ingredient in some other dish. Not to mention regional differences!

Facts about Japanese eels

Unagi is often served over rice and is expensive. It's not something we can eat daily without breaking the bank, probably due to the difficulty of finding unagi and preparing it. You can't just go to a market and buy fresh eel and prepare it without the necessary experience.

Unagi is a special food mainly consumed in summer. There is even a special date called “Doyo ushi no hi” (土用丑の日). On this date, which usually happens on Saturday, the Japanese have a tradition of eating eel since the Edo period.

Unagi - freshwater eels in Japanese cuisine

Unazen is a popular restaurant specializing in unagi, who cook fresh eels at your request. Other popular restaurants in Tokyo are called Ishibashi, Ikeunagi no mise, Godaime Nodaiwa, Unagi Uomasa and Miyoshi.

If you are in Japan, have the opportunity to try these Japanese freshwater eels! If you've tried it, comment below and share with friends. We also recommend reading:

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