Unagi eel, which is traditionally known to increase strength and vitality of those who consume it, is a bold flavored Japanese delicacy which melts in the mouth. While unagi eel is traditionally eaten on the day of the Ox, which falls in the summer, lovers of this dish will be found partaking year round.
The preparation of unagi eel is a meticulous, time consuming process. The eel must first be filleted and deboned of all its tiny bones. Next, it will be grilled on an open flame. This grilling allows the fat which is under the skin to melt off, reducing the size of the eel. Unagi goes through a steaming process next, adding volume, and it is finally basted in eel sauce and grilled. Unagi is well worth the trouble!
Once unagi is prepared, it has a rich, bold taste and flavor which comes from the high quantities of oil and proteins which the freshwater eel is known for. Because unagi has such a strong, distinct flavor, it is the star of any dish that it is in. In fact, it is often served upon a traditional rice bowl, where the flavors shine. Unagi is almost always served with eel sauce, which is a mix of salty, sweet, and slightly savory. Eel sauce is different than other sauces in that it will stick to your meal, rather than pooling at the bottom of a bowl. While it is common to see unagi in sushi and rice bowls, a classic way of serving freshwater eel is as sashimi. This allows the flavors to stand alone, and true eel lovers will often be see dining on eel in such a way.
Nutritionally, unagi is quite high in protein, which could be how it got its reputation for virility and as an aphrodisiac. It is also loaded with vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids, and is truly an energy food. But be careful whom you serve it to! If you are serving unagi to someone familiar with the legends of increased virility, it could lead to a bit of a misunderstanding as Japanese women are known to serve the dish to their husbands when they wish to ignite the flames of Roman passion.