Hitsumabushi (ひつまぶし, pronounced “heets-MOB-shee”) is a multi-course eel bowl originating in the city of Nagoya, capital of Aichi Prefecture in Japan. The star of this dish is the grilled eel, called うなぎの蒲焼 (unagi no kabayaki). The eel is first served with only sansho powder, next with more condiments, and lastly with dashi poured over. I learned about this dish through Cooking with Dog, a wonderful cooking channel on YouTube. I use frozen unagi no kabayaki from the Korean supermarket. It can be found with other frozen seafood. I can’t get any fresh eels here, and the frozen eel is affordable, and pre-cooked, saving a lot of my time! Most people in Japan would use the frozen pre-cooked eels too. 🙂
Adapted from: Cooking with Dog
Serves 2 Japanese (maybe one American, if the American eats eels)
1 package frozen unagi no kabayaki (Japanese grilled eel)
For Tare (Sauce):
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sake
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp honey
400 ml water
2 pieces konbu (each 3cm x 3cm) PLUS 4 grams katsuobushi, OR 3/4 tsp hondashi
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste (lower amount if using hondashi)
1 tbsp sake
a few drops of soy sauce
sansho powder OR Sichuan peppercorn powder (substitute, use less)
shredded toasted nori
finely chopped green onion leaves
about 400 grams hot cooked Japanese white rice
(Remember to cook the rice first!)
1. Defrost the unagi by leaving the package into water in a large bowl until defrosted. You can also refrigerate overnight.
2. Open the package and time to cook. Two choices! To bake, bake on a parchment-paper covered baking sheet for 12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the lazy version. The better version is to broil it. If you’re not feeling to do so, you can just bake it! If you live in Japan, you can use the fish grill. If you have no fish grill, you can also use a grill pan brushed with a tiny amount of oil. Optionally brush both sides with sake for enhanced flavor. (I skipped this step.) If using a fish grill, you can do it after making tare and dashi because it is faster than the oven.
3. Meanwhile, you can make the extra tare and dashi. To make extra tare, add all tare ingredients to a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring. Turn off the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
4. Let’s make dashi! Bring water to a boil (I use the same pot). Add konbu and katsuobushi and simmer 5 minutes over low heat. Remove them with a strainer. These can be used for making furikake (rice seasoning for rice balls, etc.). Just freeze until you have enough dashi scraps. See Ochikeron’s video on YouTube to learn how to make furikake. (For traditional dashi, soak konbu in water for 30 minutes, bring to a boil, remove it, add katsuobushi, simmer 5 minutes, and strain.) OR, just add hondashi and stir well.
5. Add everything under “dashi” and bring to a boil again. Adjust seasonings to taste. Turn off the heat and set aside.
6. Slice the unagi into bite size pieces. Get all the toppings ready in tiny bowls and dishes with tiny spoons to serve. You can put the dashi in a teapot if you want a good presentation. Get a rice paddle ready. Get chopsticks (or preferred utensil) for each person.
7. Time for serving! This is the most fun part! 🙂 First, take a shallow bowl that can fit all the unagi in a single layer. Spread the rice evenly. Pour the extra tare to taste on top of the rice. Lay unagi on top. Pour more tare on it. You can use extra tare for teriyaki! Now, you need 2 small bowls, one for each person. Put 1/8 of the unagi and rice in each bowl. Now, sprinkle a little sansho, or a very very very small amount of Sichuan pepper on top of the unagi, evenly. Enjoy the first course! Next course! Put the same amount of unagi and rice in each bowl. Sprinkle the same amount of sansho. Then sprinkle green onions, nori, and add wasabi. Enjoy the second course! This is the most delicious course in my opinion. Although I usually dislike too much raw green onion, it makes the eel taste wonderful. Also, the wasabi is AMAZING with the eel. Just try it! It’s not way too spicy, as long as you don’t put a ton. For the third course, put the exact same as you did for the second bowl. Then, pour the dashi stock into your bowl to cover the rice. This is known as お茶ずけ (ochazuke, pronounced “o-CHAH-zkeh”) in Japanese. Personally, I prefer the second course. For the final course, divide the remaining unagi and rice between the two bowls. Add the seasonings of your favorite course this time! Enjoy to the last drop! After finishing, you can drink the remaining dashi like tea.
Variation: Unadon (鰻丼) is the easy version of hitsumabushi in just one course. Prepare the unagi, tare, and rice. Slice the unagi, separate between two bowls filled with rice, and sprinkle sansho to taste. Enjoy!
This is a picture of the second course: