Bebe Taian: Eat Eel to Beat Summer Fatigue!

July 20, 2012

Eat Eel to Beat Summer Fatigue!

Summer isn't nearly over yet, although Tsuyu has come to a close. The heat is still unbearable, and as my friend in Tokyo has informed me, the humidity isn't going anywhere!

Japanese humidity is (in)famous. As my grandfather, who was once stationed with the military in Japan forty or fifty years ago, has told me... it's enough to make the cloth dissolve right off your skin. Cotton doesn't last long for some people, so make sure you keep in the shade! Eat plenty of cucumbers and... eel.

For those unaccustomed to seafood, especially the rarer kinds in America, where fish and shrimp dominate the scene, eel is delicious. Much like calimari, it has to be prepared just right or else it becomes tough or rubbery, no good at all! Ideally, it should be very moist and tender, and should fall apart in the mouth. It is thought that eating eel on this day in particular would be enough to give a person the stamina they need to make it through the heat this season. And frankly, there might be something to that.

Eel meat is very rich in protein, vitamin A (100g of eel is said to contain 4,400IU, or about the same as 10 chicken eggs), D, and E, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. You don't need to eat a lot of it to benefit from the wealth of nutrients in the meat! It is particularly delicious broiled or baked, sliced up over rice, chopped tamagoyaki, and topped with crisp nori.

Today is 'Natsu no Doyou', or 'Doyou Ushi no Hi', a special one-day season to eat eel. Tonight at work, I ordered a roll we make with avocado, eel, and cream cheese, wrapped in nori, sushi rice, and orange smelt roe. This is topped with a sweet dark-brown 'eel sauce' and toasted sesame seeds. It's so good! Another favourite is our Dragon roll, which is a roll made of avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab, wrapped in nori and rice, topped with strips of avocado and eel in stripes. Perfect foods for summer, but because they contain avocado and/or cream cheese, you probably won't see them in Japan. Perhaps your local restaurant has some variation of unadon. We serve unajyu at ours, which is broiled eel over rice mixed with sweet egg omelet and some other vegetables for garnish and flavour. I certainly feel less fatigued after a good meal!

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