Unagi up close

Summer foods: Unagi

Unagi
Unagi

The past few years I’ve stepped up my study of Japanese and along with it I’ve also tried to become better at cooking Japanese dishes. I tend to enjoy “homestyle” Japanese food or things that aren’t the iconic sushi. Unadon, okonomiyaki, onigiri, mabodofu, ramen, curry rice, omuraisu, zarusoba… All of them are way above sushi on my list of Japanese food I love. And there’s also a wide array of “Oh that’s so good, but I can’t remember what it is…” type side dishes and salad I’ve yet to conquer.

I’m fortunate that Houston has a Japanese grocery store, Nippon Daido. But it’s a long drive for me and a little expensive, so it’s not somewhere I go outside of specially planned trips. I get key ingredients there (mirin, konbu, katsuobushi, miso, special soy sauces, etc.) and then make a lot of the various sauces I need at home. I can make my own dashi, mentsuyu (a.k.a. dip for zarusoba), and eel sauce.

Last weekend I decided to devote to cooking “summer foods.” My mission: unagi (freshwater eel). Daido had posted online about having a sale and I figured it was a perfect time to grab some mugicha (barley tea), cook up some eel, and have a real Japanese summer-style meal.

Fortunately for me as a cook, but unfortunately for the sake of writing about food, unagi is sold precooked and frozen. So here’s how to cook it:

  • Step 1: Heat it up.
  • Step 2: Done!

However, the store was out of eel sauce so it was make-it-myself time!

This was my first time making eel sauce, but it was super easy. I used the eel sauce recipe at JustOneCookbook. I’ve really enjoyed her blog because it has how to’s on lots of basic sauces.

Ingredients
Ingredients

Here are all the ingredients. Pretty straightforward! I even took a picture of sugar in case anyone forgot what it looked like.

I didn’t know which brand of sake to use, so I used the scientific method of asking a grocery store employee “Which one should I use for cooking?” and she provided the expert advice of  “This one I guess…”

Sure!

Unagi sauce
Unagi sauce

 

My eel sauce cooking was pretty unexciting to behold…

But then the final result was great! I keep Szechuan pepper on hand, so it made the unagi even more delicious.

Daikon, carrot, cucumber salad
Daikon, carrot, cucumber salad

For side dishes, I made bean sprouts with a spicy sauce; daikon, carrot, and cucumber salad; and quick cucumber salt pickles. I’ll talk about how to make quick pickles in another post.

Spicy bean sprout salad
Spicy bean sprout salad

As a closing thought, I know many cooking blogs post recipes, but if I use them without meaningful modifications from other blogs, I don’t see the point in doing so. So for those posts, I’m just going to ramble about cooking! Otherwise I’ll talk about cooking techniques or interesting changes I made.

2 thoughts on “Summer foods: Unagi”

  1. All dishes look perfect and delicious! Thanks so much for trying my recipes and linking back to the original post instead of sharing the recipe here. I really appreciate it. THANK YOU!!! So happy to hear you enjoyed your homemade Japanese meal. 🙂 Thanks again!

    1. Wow, thanks for the comment! I love your blog. It’s really indispensable for Japanese cooking in the US. I’m sure I will have more links back to it in future posts.

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