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Publication Date : 13-09-2013
It is a Japanese tradition to eat grilled eels in July and August, the hottest time of the year
In early July, my husband posted an image of a newspaper column on our family Line account on his way to work. It was a short story written in English about grilled eel that said: “It is a Japanese tradition to eat grilled eels in July and August, the hottest time of the year. It is said that an eel promotes appetite and recovery from fatigue.”
As he sent it without any comment, none of our children understood the point he was making. I told them he probably wanted to eat grilled eel. A piece of grilled eel this time of year can cost 2,000 yen (US$20) at supermarkets, so we hadn’t eaten eel for quite a long time.
When my husband came home and I told him how expensive grilled eel is today, he laughed and said he sent it simply because he thought the article would help teenagers learn English expressions.
The article prompted us to eat good, grilled eels. On July 23, or the day after Doyou of July (the Day of the Ox when we’re traditionally encouraged to eat grilled eel to overcome summer weariness), when eel prices are discounted, I bought two packs of grilled eel and made una-tama donburi. This doesn’t require much eel, like regular unagi-donburi, but my children were happy.
A few weeks later, we had a great opportunity. My uncle, who died two years ago, used to recommend a restaurant for its grilled eel. My parents invited us there to follow his advice. My children were excited about una-ju (grilled eel on top of rice in a lacquered rectangle box).
By the way, my mother’s cousin has grandsons in England. They are big fans of grilled eel. Whenever they come to Japan, she serves grilled eel, even for breakfast. What a gorgeous treat for her grandsons from overseas! She said she planned to send them sauce for grilled eel that can be used as seasoning on grilled chicken or other dishes. The small bottles of the savory sauce will certainly contain their grandmother’s affection.
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Donburi with grilled eel and eggs
200g, or two small, grilled eel
3 tablespoons unagi-no-tare (sauce for grilled eels)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
⅓ teaspoon dashi powder
4 donburi bowls of cooked rice
Trefoil leaves for garnish
1. Cut onion into halves and slice thinly. Cut grilled eel into halves lengthwise and cut into 2 centimeter-wide pieces. In a bowl, lightly stir the eggs.
2. In a skillet, combine the unagi-no-tare, soy sauce, dashi powder and water.
3. Add the onion. Cook covered over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes, or until cooked through. Add grilled eel pieces and stir in the eggs. Cook covered for 1 minute, or until egg becomes half set.
4. Top each bowl of cooked rice with one-fourth portions of the eel, onion and egg mixture. Top with trefoil leaves.
* Unagi-no-tare usually comes with grilled eel in small packages. A larger portion of tare is also available in small plastic bottles.