Sunday, July 15, 2007
Eel Eating Day. Coming up soon, is "Doyo-no-ushi", or the annual eel eating day in Japan. Eel is eaten on the 'hottest' day of the year, in July to gain stamina for the rest of the year. In fact "ushi" means 'ox', and although I'm told the official day this year is July 24th, any ox day (according to the Chinese zodiac) in the month of July is appropriate. I dropped by Restaurant Ino one hot July day, irrespective of whether it was an ox day or not, it was just hot!
Their unaju comes with miso soup and salad. The eel dish is called 'unaju' if served in lacquered box, and 'unadon' if served in a bowl.
Restaurant Ino's is served in a lacquer box with some edamame, ginger and a generous portion of grilled and seasoned eel sitting on some nori (seaweed) over rice. It was quite tasty. You can imagine when there is one day appointed that everyone should eat these, there is a run on eel in Japan in the millions. And these days only 20% of the eels consumed in Japan are caught domestically. So Japan turns to neighboring countries and Europe to fill the void. As I was freshening up my memory for this post, I ran across a sad article about this fish heading toward extinction, and another place detailing how the fish stock is declining. Now I'm a bit sad that I ate the eel.
What you may not be aware of is that some European countries have eel on the menu as well. I have some Dutch eel recipes in my collection, and I know there are other countries of Europe that consider them a delicacy as well. In fact, in some parts of Europe it is thought that if you rub your skin with eel oil, you will be able to see faeries!