Today I will show you how to make unagi donburi. Donburi in Japanese means “over rice”. There are many types of dons, but unagi is one of the most common.
Having lived in Japan and being a sushi chef for over 13 years, unagi has been a part of my life for a long time. I have seen it killed and skinned a few gruesome ways. I’ve broiled it, boiled it, fried it, steamed it and barbequed it. It seemed that all of the Japanese people I know have told me time and again that unagi gives you power, especially sexual stamina. But not only does the fresh water eel resemble a certain male organ, it also provides energy to survive the hot and humid Japanese summer climate. Scientifically it is high in vitamin A; which is good for skin, hair, nails and eyes, and immune system. Some scientists even say cancer patients can benefit from vitamin A.
Makes 1-2 Unagi donburis
1.5 c rice (preferable Japanese rice or short grain rice. To make a healthier donburi, use short grain brown rice!)
½ pc of konbu, wiped with a damp towel
1 pc Unagi
Sansho pepper (comes from the shansho tree and has a citrus-peppery flavor but is not a pepper, it is more of an herb or spice. It is traditionally used with unagi)
Unagi sauce (ingredients)
½ c sake
1/8 c mirin (sweetened rice wine for cooking)
1 c light soy sauce
¾ c sugar
10 black pepper corns
1 handful of katsuo or bonito flakes
3 thick slices of orange.
Take one and half cups of rice and put into a mesh strainer. You want the strainer to have small enough holes so the rice does not fall into the sink. Wash rice until the water turns from milky to clear. Put the rice into the rice cooker with the piece of konbu on top and 1.5-2 cups of water depending on how old the rice is. You can tell how old the rice is by grabbing a handful of dry rice and seeing how many kernels fall through your hands. The more kernels fall out, the older the rice is and the more water you should add to the rice to cook it. The konbu is a super food and will not only add extra mineral and vitamins to your rice, it also adds an essence of the river or sea where the fish come from. Put into rice cooker and turn on. Leave to prepare everything else. If you do not have a rice cooker, put rice, konbu and water in a sauce pan with a lid and bring to a boil on high (about 5-7 min), lower to the lowest setting once it boils for 12-15 min and then take off heat and let steam still covered for another 12 min.If you want to use brown rice, I suggest reading the instructions on the bag, or I do 1 c rice to 1.5-2c water. I soak the rice in the water for 45 min before cooking.
It is very important you keep the lid on at all times, the rice needs all the steam to cook properly!
When the rice is finished, discard the konbu and turn the rice a couple times then leave it covered in the pot.
Put sake in a saucepan and put on high heat. Reduce the sake by half, burning all the alcohol off. Add mirin and soy sauce then dissolve sugar in the mixture. Add the peppercorns, katsuo and orange slices to the mixture and bring to a boil. Once it lightly boils, turn to low and reduce the mixture until it coats the back of a spoon, about 20-30 min. strain out the katsuo, orange slices and peppercorns. Set aside.
Buy unagi already prepared. It is too much trouble for most people to buy, kill, skin, filet and BBQ a fresh water eel themselves. But by all means if you feel inclined to do so, it will be fresher. I can give detailed instructions on how to do these things in another blog or if requested.
Today I will write about the prepackaged unagi that is already BBQ-ed. It is what your average sushi bars uses.
Take unagi out of its package and cut into thirds. Place on a piece of oiled aluminum foil skin side down and put into a toaster oven. Toast on medium for about 2-3 minutes (depending on how crispy you want it) if the toaster oven was not preheated. If you do not have a toaster oven, you can heat it up on a greased frying pan on low until warm or in the microwave until warm, about 1 minute.
Putting the dish together
Put the rice in a bowl. Top with the warmed unagi. Sprinkle the sansho pepper lightly over the unagi. Drizzle the unagi sauce over all. You can top your unagi don with anything you want. Japanese pickles (sukemono), green onion (negi) or cucumber (kuri) are common.
Enjoy and happy cooking!!