If you used to watch the most popular series of the ’90s – I’m talking about Friends, of course – then the word ‘unagi’ probably makes you smile and reminisce about those golden days of joy and laughter. (As a child of this era, those were my halcyon days when we, Hungarians, started to embrace the American pop culture more pervasively than ever before.) I remember how, for years after the 17th episode of season 6 had aired in 2000, I kept wondering what unagi exactly was. And more importantly: where could I get some?
They did give you a brief introduction in said episode:
Rachel: Isn’t that a kind of sushi?
Ross: No, it’s a concept.
Phoebe: Yeah, it is! It is! It’s freshwater eel.
But it was barely enough to satisfy my appetite. Years later, when I became a big fan of sushi, browsing through the menu, once again I spotted the strange word they I got to know thanks to the sitcom, staring me right in the face, in the form of the ever so popular unagi nigiri.
Unagi, as Phoebe suggested, really is the Japanese word for freshwater eel. Its sweeter taste and more tender texture make it a special and much liked ingredient that can be prepared in several ways: besides the already mentioned nigiri, for example, Unagi Kabayaki, the fantastic grilled version can also make you wonder how you could live this long without tasting the snake-like delicacy.
The rich flavor is only of one the first-class qualities of this fatty meat: the Japanese often call it a summer food due to its high content in minerals and vitamins that are believed to be great contributors when it comes to battling with the unsettling feeling of summer fatigue.
Kabayaki is a common cooking style: the fish is filleted, deboned, butterflied, skewered and grilled, then – just to make the experience even more appreciated – topped with some sweet soy sauce that enhances the lusciousness of the eel. This crispy compilation can be served with rice and arrive to your table in a special lacquerware called jubako. Unagi Kabayaki has always been one of the favorite choices of our guests: both Japanese and local gastro enthusiasts go for the daintiness and enjoy its sweet juiciness that makes the dish so outstanding.
Though summer might soon be over – if you are anything like me, you’ve been praying for some colder days for a while now, trying to fight off the dizziness of the unbearable heat without success – the autumn season promises new adventures, not just in our everyday life, but with regards to our food cravings, as well. Here I am, waiting for the liberating winds of September, dying for a few pieces of unagi nigiri. Or a plate of Unagi Kabayaki.
If you’re a devoted explorer of Asian cuisine, Sushi Sei awaits you with a wide range of authentic tastes and the freshly prepared dishes of our skilled Japanese chef, Seiichi Kusumoto. Follow our blog for more interesting details about Japanese gastronomy, culture and heritage. Visit Sushi Sei for an authentic culinary experience: you can reserve a table here, or order your favorite sushi boxes and tasty Japanese treats right to your doorstep!