Tuesday, June 28, 2005

inagi, unagi ... we all nagi

It’s hot in tokyo today. 88 degrees F with 58% relative humidity. The heat index is at 94f (10 degrees away from a dog heat stoke). We decided to shelter our meteorologically fixated minds in an unagi (eel) restaurant.

Although eel does not feature on the world’s healthiest foods site, it is regarded as summertime healthy in Japan. Three reasons abound:
- It is a good source of protein, calcium and vitamins A and E.
- Less scientific, but far more romantic, lore has it that eels are strong in order to make the journey from ocean upriver in order to breed – the things we do.
- Either way, it is thought to improve stamina and as a result it is most often eaten at the hottest times of the year. In fact, doyo-no-ushi (complicated, but something like 18 days before fall) is the day that the japanese traditionally eat eel. On this day food beginning with “U” is considered good for our health (ok, the least scientific of all reasons).

Grilled eel is a specialty in Japan. We didn’t see the cooking, but it seems to consist of 3 stages – over charcoal, steamed to remove fat and finally seasoned and grilled. We went for the typical unajuu or unagi donburi or unadon (basically anything you want). It is served on a bed of rice with teriyaki sauce over the fish. Much like the 4 steps to happiness that cocoichibanya recommend, the waitress recommended an interesting 3 styles to eating the unagi (she may have been getting revenge for having to cook the thing in 3 different ways):

Style 1: unagi with sansho

Actually, we didn’t know what sansho was. Thoughts ranged from fish salt to herbs. It turns out to be a powdered aromatic pepper.

Style 2: unagi with onions, seaweed and wasabi

Not the best photo that was ever taken in Japan, but this was my favourite (syle not photo).

Style 3: unagi soup

Disturbingly enough Taro called this tea.

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