Japan's Eel Cuisine: The Delights of Unajū #225

Japan's Eel Cuisine: The Delights of Unajū #225

Join us as we explore the world of うな重, a delicious Japanese dish featuring grilled eel over rice in a special box. Learn about the differences between Kanto and Kansai styles, and discover the perfect sides to complement this luxurious meal.

Silver Penguin+ Members: Video Podcast and Japanese Transcripts (Furigana Included/Excluded)

単語 (Vocabulary)

価格帯 (かかくたい) - Price range
専門店 (せんもんてん) - Specialty store
帰省 (きせい) - Homecoming
タレ - Sauce
煎る (いる) - To roast (beans, seeds)
ふっくら - Fluffy (onomatopoeia)
パリッ - Crispy (onomatopoeia)
通 (つう) - Expert, Connoisseur
脂 (あぶら) - Fat
蒸す (むす) - To steam
肝 (きも) - Liver
山椒 (さんしょう) - Japanese pepper
贅沢な (ぜいたくな) - Luxurious
容器 (ようき) - Container

会話の話題 (Conversation Topics)

How much is the average cost of lunch?

Have you ever eaten unaju? Where did you eat it, and how was it?

Are there eel dishes in your country? If so, what kind of dishes are they?

Do you have a favorite spice, like sansho which is sprinkled on unaju?

Zanthoxylum piperitum - Wikipedia

山椒 (さんしょう) - Japanese pepper

Umaki (う巻き): Umaki is a Japanese dish that consists of a rolled omelet (tamagoyaki) filled with eel (unagi). The eel is usually grilled with a sweet soy-based sauce before being wrapped in the omelet. It’s a popular item in Japanese cuisine, known for its delicate balance of savory and sweet flavors.
Una-kimosui (うな肝吸): Una-kimosui is a clear soup made with the liver of an eel (unagi). The liver is simmered in a light broth, often seasoned with soy sauce and garnished with mitsuba (Japanese parsley) or other herbs. This soup is typically served as an accompaniment to eel dishes and is valued for its light and refreshing taste.
Sansho (山椒): Sansho is a Japanese spice made from the ground berries of the Japanese prickly ash tree. It has a unique, citrusy flavor and a tingling sensation on the tongue, similar to Sichuan pepper. Sansho is commonly used as a seasoning for eel dishes, such as unagi, and can also be found in various other Japanese recipes to add a distinctive kick.

Understanding Japanese Restaurant Rankings: 並, 上, and 特上

In Japanese restaurants, "並(Nami)," "上(Jo)," and "特上(Tokujo)" are terms used to indicate different levels of a dish, but their meaning can vary. Here’s a simple guide to understanding these rankings:

Eel (Unagi) Restaurants (where I went)

  • Nami (並): Standard portion of eel. The quality of the eel is consistent across all ranks.
  • Jo (上): Larger portion of eel, but the same quality as Nami.
  • Tokujo (特上): The largest portion of eel, with the same quality as Nami and Jo.

Sushi and Yakiniku (Grilled Meat) Restaurants

  • Nami (並): Good quality ingredients that offer a satisfying experience.
  • Jo (上): Higher quality ingredients that are more refined and flavorful.
  • Tokujo (特上): The finest, most premium ingredients for an exceptional dining experience.

Please note that these are general guidelines and the specific meanings of these terms can vary from one restaurant to another. Understanding these terms helps you choose dishes that best fit your appetite and budget, ensuring a great dining experience in Japan.

English Summary

View the English summary of this episode

Episode Overview

In this episode, we dive into the delicious world of Unajū, a traditional Japanese dish featuring grilled eel served over rice in a special lacquered box.

What is Unajū?

Unajū consists of:

  • Grilled eel placed on top of rice
  • Served in a rectangular box called a jubako
  • Covered with a sweet and savory sauce
  • Enhanced with a sprinkle of sansho (Japanese pepper)

Personal Experience

Recently, I had the chance to enjoy Unajū during a visit to my hometown in Kagawa, Shikoku. It was a special meal shared with my mother, making the experience even more memorable. We savored the dish at a local specialty restaurant, highlighting how Unajū is often enjoyed during significant moments with loved ones.

Kanto-style vs. Kansai-style

We explore the regional differences:

  • Kanto-style (Eastern Japan):
    • Eel is steamed before grilling
    • Results in a light and fluffy texture
  • Kansai-style (Western Japan):
    • Eel is grilled without steaming
    • Results in a crispier texture and more robust flavor

Recommended Side Dishes

Complement your Unajū with:

  • Umaki: Rolled omelette with eel
  • Kimosui: Clear soup with eel liver

These side dishes enhance the overall dining experience and complement the rich flavors of the grilled eel.

Understanding the Pricing

Unajū can range from affordable to quite luxurious, depending on:

  • The restaurant
  • The quality of the eel

Unajū typically comes in three levels:

  • Nami (並): Contains half an eel
  • Jō (上): Contains one eel
  • Toku-jō (特上): Contains one and a half eels

At the restaurant I visited, the price for an Unajū "Jō" was around 3,630 yen for a lunch set, which is considered quite a luxurious meal in Japan.

Cultural Significance

Unajū is often enjoyed during special occasions and with loved ones. It's a dish that:

  • Delights the palate
  • Brings a sense of tradition and warmth


Whether you're a seasoned fan of Japanese cuisine or new to it, this episode will give you a deeper appreciation for Unajū and inspire you to try it if you haven't already. Enjoy learning about this iconic Japanese dish and perhaps even plan to taste it on your next visit to Japan!

Video Podcast and Japanese Transcripts (Furigana Included/Excluded)

Read the full story

Sign up now to read the full story and get access to paid posts.

Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Sayuri Saying.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Sayuri Saying.
Success! Your account is fully activated!
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.