Monday, July 28, 2014

Grilled Eel Rice, Unagi Don 鳗鱼饭

Not until I saw eel and eel bento being promoted all over on ad flyers of two of my neighborhood Japanese supermarkets, I did not even know the existence of a day Doyo-ushi - a day in Japan that is "dedicated" to eating eel (unagi). Generally, the consumption of eel during hot and humid summer days in Japan helps people fight fatigue and recover stamina as eel is nutritious with a rich source of Vitamins A, B1, B2 and E.

Japanese unagi imported from Japan, available in Mitsuwa (on sale for $17.99 for 4.4oz eel)

Eel is actually not seasonal and can be enjoyed all-year round. You can always order eel sushi, or eel rice (Unangi Don) from the regular menu in a reputed Japanese eatery; or buy eel (typically, already broiled, then vacuum-packed) from the supermarket.

Due to decreasing eel population, it is now very rare to have eels from Japan that is imported and sold in our local supermarkets. Most packaged broiled eels (I would say 90%) sold in Japanese and Korean supermarkets are all from China. If you frequent Japanese restaurants/eateries very often, and happens to love Unagi Don, that unagi is most likely from China as well.

Eel preparation, with reference to 

Rare as the facts but on this special day of Doyo-ushi and a week before, some supermarkets here in the Bay Area especially the Japanese supermarkets bring in eels, usually already broiled and vacuum-sealed, that are indeed "product of Japan". As a bonus to eel-consumers, it might be during this time that the already expensive "product of Japan" (about $25 for just about a 5-oz broiled eel) will be discounted, to about $18 - well, not heavily discounted but still a discount; and without doubt, even after sale, it is still much more expensive than the China eel counterpart that is just 1/5th the price ($6-7 for about 5-6oz eel).

Which would you buy?
Not that I am able to taste the different between eels farmed in China vs those farmed in Japan; however, if so many food scares from China, I would rather not scrimp on products especially when it is food that is consumed and ingested into our bodies.

Steamed broccoli, and sauteed kale as sides to make the meal complete

So I indulged and bought the premium Japanese unagi imported from Japan (on-sale @ $17.99/4.4oz eel in Mitsuwa, San Jose; on-sale @ $22/ 5.8oz eel in Marakai Supermarket, Cupertino), and prepared my own Unagi Don or Unadon at home. The unagi sauce came along with the vacuum-packed broiled unagi, thus saved me some trouble of preparing the sauce.

Sharing with Hearth and Soul

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