Unagi Donburi: Savor the Ultimate Japanese Rice Bowl Delight!
Unagi donburi, a popular Japanese rice bowl, is a mouth-watering dish that combines the savory flavor of grilled eel fillets with steamed rice and a delicious homemade unagi sauce. This dish dates back to the Edo period and has become a staple in Japanese cuisine and can be found in many Japanese restaurants worldwide. With its rich umami flavors and tender eel fillets, unagi donburi is a must-try for any seafood lover or anyone looking to explore the delicious world of Japanese cooking.
What is Unagi?
Unagi is a Japanese dish that consists of grilled freshwater eel, also known as unagi eel, served over a bed of steamed rice in a bowl called an unagi don or unagi rice bowl. The eel fillets are steamed, then grilled over a charcoal fire, or broiled in the oven until they become crispy and caramelized. Unagi sauce, or tare, is a sweet sauce made from soy sauce, granulated sugar, and mirin, a Japanese sweet rice wine brushed on top of the eel fillets while grilling. Some homemade unagi eel sauce recipes may include other ingredients such as sake, garlic, and ginger for additional flavor. Once the sauce thickens, the eel fillets are removed from the grill, sliced into pieces, and then placed on top of the rice in the bowl. Unagi rice bowls are commonly served with sesame seeds, sansho pepper, and a small side of unagi sauce to enhance the umami flavors of the dish. Unagi is a popular main course cuisine in Japanese cooking and can be found in many Japanese restaurants and Asian markets.
Types of Unagi
Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica)
The Japanese eel is characterized by its elongated cylindrical shape, small eyes, and lack of a belly fin. Its back is dark brown and connects to the tail with a dorsal fin. The belly is pale yellowish-white in color. The Japanese eel appears more elongated. Unfortunately, due to excessive fishing, the natural population of Japanese eels is now endangered. Locals have made various efforts to conserve the species.
European eel (Anguilla Anguilla)
The European eel is the only type of eel found in Europe. It was brought to Japan in large numbers and farmed after the war. The eel has a similar appearance to the Japanese eel, with an elongated cylindrical body. Its taste is also similar, although it tends to be oilier than Japanese eels. However, most of Japan's eels are of Japanese and European varieties.
Giant mottled eel (Anguilla marmorata)
The two types of eels found in Japan are the Japanese eel and the giant mottled eel. As its name implies, the latter is bigger than a regular eel, with a maximum length of 2 meters and a weight of 20 kilograms. However, it is not commonly caught by locals and is considered to have an inferior taste compared to the Japanese eel, so it is not widely distributed as a food source.\
Natural eels and farmed eels
It's uncommon to find natural eels for sale in their original state. Instead, most of the eels available for consumption are raised through aquaculture. However, this process doesn't involve growing eels from eggs but rather involves catching and raising young and adult eels, making it more akin to livestock farming.
Why Is Unagi Recognized as a Summer Food in Japan?
From Edo Period (1600-1850), we have a tradition of eating unagi on a particular mid-summer day called doyō-no ushi-no-hi (土用の丑の日) to gain stamina to beat the heat. Unagi is considered most delectable during the late autumn, as eels accumulate extra fat in preparation for spawning. However, despite this, in Japan, Unagi is typically regarded as a summer dish. There are several theories behind this tradition, one of which is the belief that consuming foods with an "ooh" sound helps counter summer heat. Such foods include udon, energy-packed, appetite-stimulating umeboshi (pickled plums), water-rich vegetables such as cucumber and melons, and the nutritious unagi.
Traditional Unagi Dishes That You’ve Got to Try
There are many ways to prepare unagi, each with its unique appeal. If you have more opportunities to enjoy different meals, it is advisable to try as many varieties of unagi dishes as possible.
The most popular method of preparing unagi is kabayaki, where a sweet sauce made from soy sauce and mirin is applied to the eel as it grills over charcoal. Combining the sweet tare sauce and the rich, fatty unagi is highly favored. Unagi kabayaki is often served on a bed of rice, and the dish is referred to as "unaju" if it is served in a square lacquerware bowl called a "jubako" and "unadon" if served in a deep, round bowl known as a "donburi" in Japanese. Although unaju is pricier as it has more eel, the flavors are similar to unadon. Many prefer to sprinkle Japanese sansho pepper on the dish to provide a spicy and tingly sensation that perfectly balances the other flavors.
Shirayaki is a traditional method of cooking unagi that is similar to kabayaki but without tare sauce. Instead, the eel is grilled over charcoal, allowing the natural umami flavor of the fish to be savored without any additional distractions. Shirayaki can be served plain or with a light sprinkling of salt, wasabi, or other condiments. If you want to try the unadulterated taste of unagi, then this dish is perfect for you.
Hitsumabushi is a popular dish from Nagoya that is a must-try when visiting Aichi Prefecture. It consists of a bowl of rice topped with chopped unagi kabayaki. However, there is a specific way to eat hitsumabushi that is part of the experience. First, try the rice and unagi without adding any seasonings. Second, mix rice and unagi with green onions, nori, and wasabi. Third, add tea or dashi to another portion to make chazuke. Finally, eat the last portion however you like. If you're unsure how to eat hitsumabushi, don't hesitate to ask for assistance, who may provide a multilingual guide to help you enjoy the dish to the fullest.
Unagi Sushi Rice
Unagi is a commonly used sushi topping that you may have come across before. It is typically cooked by grilling or searing it with a torch and then brushed with a tare sauce similar to the one used in kabayaki, so you don't need to add any additional soy sauce when you eat it. The price of unagi sushi is usually slightly higher than other sushi toppings, especially if you're ordering it by the piece, but it's one of my personal favorites, and I strongly recommend trying it out. It's like having a delicious, single bite of unaju, and it is also a good option for those who aren't particularly fond of raw fish.
What is Donburi?
Donburi is a Japanese dish that consists of a bowl of steamed rice topped with various ingredients such as fish, meat, and vegetables. One popular donburi dish is unagi don, which features grilled freshwater eel fillets glazed with homemade unagi sauce. The sauce, made with soy sauce, granulated sugar, and mirin, is cooked over medium heat in a small saucepan until it thickens. Unagi don is typically served on top of white rice and garnished with sesame seeds and sansho pepper. The eel is then simmered in the homemade unagi sauce and placed on the rice. Unagi don is a main course cuisine popular in Japanese restaurants known for its umami flavors and nutrition calories.
What is Unagi Donburi?
Unagi donburi or Unagi don is a classic Japanese dish featuring grilled freshwater eel fillets served on a bed of steamed rice. The dish is typically seasoned with a homemade unagi sauce, a sweet and savory sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake. Unagi donburi is one of the most popular rice bowls in Japanese cuisine, and it's easy to see why with its delicious combination of sweet sauce, tender grilled eel, and perfectly cooked rice. It's also a great way to use leftover unagi or teriyaki sauce to create a quick and satisfying meal at home.
Why is Unagi Don Popular?
Unagi Don, known as Unagi Rice Bowl, is a popular dish in Japan due to its delicious taste and nutritional benefits. Unagi is a rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it a healthy option for those looking for a balanced diet. Additionally, the sweet and savory taste of the grilled eel combined with the sticky rice and flavorful sauce makes for a satisfying and filling meal. Unagi is also considered a luxury food item, adding to its popularity and appeal for special occasions and celebrations. The dish's history and cultural significance in Japan also contribute to its popularity, as it has been enjoyed for centuries and is a staple in Japanese cuisine.
How Is Unagi Donburi Bowl Prepared?
Unagi donburi bowl is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of grilled eel fillets served on steamed rice. The eel fillets are typically marinated in a sweet and savory unagi sauce made with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, which gives them their signature flavor.
To prepare the dish, you will need unagi fillets, unagi sauce, steamed rice, and sesame seeds for garnish. You can buy pre-cooked unagi fillets from Japanese grocery stores or prepare them at home by grilling or broiling them until cooked.
To make the homemade unagi sauce, combine soy sauce, mirin, granulated sugar, and a pinch of sansho pepper in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the sauce thickens. This sauce also called tare in Japanese cooking, is the key ingredient in the recipe, making the dish taste delicious.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or cooking spray. Place the unagi fillets on the baking pan, sheet skin side down, and brush them with the leftover unagi sauce. Bake the fillets for 10-12 minutes until heated and slightly caramelized.
Place a generous portion of steamed rice at the bottom to assemble the bowl and drizzle it with some unagi sauce. Place the grilled eel fillets on the rice and garnish with sesame seeds and Japanese pepper if desired. You can also serve the dish with pickled vegetables or miso soup.
Unagi donburi bowl is a popular main course cuisine served in many Japanese restaurants and is also known as grilled eel rice bowl, unagi eel rice bowl, or eel donburi. The dish has a rich and savory flavor profile with umami flavors that satisfy your taste buds. It is also a good source of nutrition and provides around 400-500 calories per serving.
On-the-go Unagi Don
Unagi don can also be served in a bento box, a single-portion takeout, or a home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. In a bento box, unagi don typically consists of steamed white rice topped with grilled unagi fillets and drizzled with sweet unagi sauce. It may also be garnished with sesame seeds, sliced green onions, and Japanese pepper. Some variations of eating unagi may include vegetables or other seafood, such as sliced avocado, shrimp, or salmon roe. Unagi don is popular in Japanese bento boxes due to its delicious flavor and ability to stay fresh for several hours, making it a great option for a packed lunch or quick meal on the go.
What is Unagi Don in a Bento Box Made of? Here is an Unagi Don Recipe for you to try!
Unagi Don Recipe
To make the unagi don, the unagi fillets are first grilled or baked with a homemade unagi sauce, which typically includes soy sauce, mirin, granulated sugar, and sake. The eel is placed on the steamed or fried rice, and the remaining sauce is poured. Unagi don bento can be enjoyed alone or as part of a larger meal, commonly found at Japanese restaurants and grocery stores.
To make this at home, unagi fillets can be purchased pre-cooked and vacuum-sealed from Asian markets, or fresh eel can be prepared and cooked at home.
The eel is then placed on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, sprayed with cooking spray, and cooked at medium heat until the skin side becomes crispy.
The unagi sauce is prepared in a small saucepan over medium heat until it thickens and then poured over the grilled eel fillets.
The dish is traditionally served with steamed Japanese rice and garnished with sesame seeds and Japanese or sansho pepper, adding a burst of umami flavor.
Unagi don bento is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine and can be enjoyed as a main course or as part of a larger meal.
Unleash Your Creativity: How to Make Your Own Delicious Bento Box at Home!
Unleash your creativity and make your own Unagi Don Bento Box with the Japan Create's Bento Box Experience Set. This two-tiered bento box has dividers and picks to separate and garnish your food, making your lunch visually appealing and delicious. The set also includes a seaweed art cutter and a utensil set to help you craft your desired shape and taste. Complete your bento experience by bringing your sauce in the sauce container and easily carrying your lunch using the included carry bag. With this set, you'll have everything you need to create your beautiful, personalized bento box and enjoy your Unagi Don Bento Box like a true Japanese local.
Unagi is one of the delectable Japanese dishes consisting of grilled freshwater eel and is often served over a bed of steamed rice in a bowl called an unagi don or unagi rice bowl. Unagi sauce, or tare, is made from soy sauce, granulated sugar, and mirin and brushed on top of the unagi fillet while grilling. Unagi is recognized as a summer food in Japan because it is believed that consuming foods with an "ooh" sound helps counter summer heat. There are various types of unagi, including the Japanese eel, European eel, and giant mottled eel. Traditional unagi dishes that are highly recommended include kabayaki, the most popular way of cooking unagi, and shirayaki, a traditional method of cooking unagi without tare sauce. You can make your own personalized and visually appealing Unagi Don Bento Box home with the right ingredients and tools, such as the Japan Create's Bento Box Experience Set. The best way to enjoy unagi is to try as many varieties of unagi dishes as possible. Unagi don bento is a popular and delicious dish that can be enjoyed as a main course or as part of a larger meal and is commonly found in Japanese restaurants and grocery stores.
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