Get to know about “Doyo no ushi no hi”, the day Japanese have eel for a a meal

The history of Doyo no ushi no hi

         In Edo period, there was a eel restaurant at which occured bad accidents in summer. So restaurant owner went to ask wise man named hiraga gennai who had lot of confidence. Then Gennai advised that write sign board “today is a Doyo no ushi no hi or 12th”. Ox in Japanese is zodiac called “Ushi” so people believe that “Unagi” which is called from first letter “U”, help get their health and prevent cold. In addition, eel have protein, vitamin A, vitamin B and several minerals that help have strong body. This opinion is handed down and change to custom that people eat eel at the day “Doyo no ushi no hi”.

What kind of eel that Japanese people usually eat?

        The eel in Thai and the eel that has been eaten in Japan are totally different class. The one in Thai is fresh water fish, live in mud in river. It’s not the type of eel that should be cooked in Japanese style because of its smelling of fish and mud. Thai eel is better to be cooked in Thai cooking style and have it as savories eaten with drinks, such as boiling or spicy stir-frying. Spicy and seasoning flavor help overcoming those strong smell of the eel.

         There are two kinds of eel that Japanese people like to eat, Unagi (eel) and Anago (conger), Both are called Japaneses eel, but they are different kind of fish. Unagi has black body and rounded shape of tail. It lives in fresh water but lay eggs in the sea. Anago has long slender tail, light brown body with white speckles. It lives in the sea. That make them teste differently. Unagi has more fat than Anago, and has tasty smell after grilling. Therefore Japanese like to cook Unagi by stick and grill with sauce made from soy sauce, sweet sake, sugar and sake, named “Kabayaki sauce”. Anago has much more mild taste than Unagi, it has fewer oil and strong flavor, so people often make tempura of it or make it sushi and spread its sauce over.

Grilling eel with Kabayaki sauce

         It’s very difficult to make Kabayaki grilled style delicious.There is one quote descripe how difficult it is to make great Kabayaki says『串打ち三年割き八年焼き一生』. It means “It takes 3 years to stick, 8 years to slice and whole life to grill, till you make good grilled eel”. In Kanto region, people grill first season later, then steam it, grill it again and coat it with sauce. This process make it touch softer and fluffier. In Kasai region, people coat the eel with sauce while grilling it. There is no way Kaisai people will grill the eel without seasoning or steam it. By grilling it, the fish fat will come out perfectly and make a good harmony of smell with the smoke.

         There is a tale of a man who was poor and so hungry. One day he walked past a restaurant that serve eel, good smell of grilled eel make him felt very staving. However he didn’t have enough money to afford those eels, so he brought the cooked rice and had it in front of the restaurant imagined that he having those rice with a delicious grilled eel. The restaurant found out and try to make the poor man to pay for the eel. The poor man argued that he didn’t eat real one at all, but the owner said the man have to pay for what he smelled. Suddenly, the poor man pulled out his bag and shake it to make the sound of his coins and said "If you make me pay for the smell of the grilled eel, I'll pay you with the sound of the coins"

        People like to eat “Unagidon” style as well as eating with Kabayaki sauce. Unagidon is rice with grilled eel on top. the sauce from grilled eel is seeping slowly in to the rice. The name of Unagidon is changed to its container. It's caled "Unaju" when it's in the container with square shape. In Nagoya prefecture, they serve eel on rice, put it the container with cover called “Hitsu”, and name the menu “Hitsumabushi.


There're 4 steps of eating Hitsumabushi
First Divide it into 4 parts and eat the 1st part without putting anything on it to feel the original taste of it.
SecondIn the second part, put green onion, seaweed and wasabi on the top, mix them well with the rice and the eel. You'll have a bit spicy and stronger taste.
Third Pour the soup on it to have it in “Ochazuke” (boiled rice in soup) style.
Forth Eat in your favorite way

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         There are many process in making delicious Unagidon (Grilled eel on top of rice) and each process need skills. The rice must be soft, shallot. The grilled eel must has the best smell of it. The souse must be full-flavoured. When you have a bite you have to feel the fat from the eel that well mixed with rice and sauce. Not only cooking process, catching eel is difficult too. Moreover, the number of eel is getting decreasing, not enough for its demand cause the high price of the eel. Even though, people still love to eat grilled eel because of it wonderful taste. Apart of Unagidon, the restaurant also serves other foods from eel such as rolling omelet with eel, grilled eel liver, soup with eel gut.