Wednesday, July 21
Today was Doyo-no ushi-no hi this year. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular Japanese traditional event and wonder what the hell Doyo-no ushi-no hi is, it is basically supposed to be one of the hottest days of the summer ("dog days") and on this particular day, folks traditionally eat broiled eel in Japan, or so they say. I never did. Anyways, the bottom line is that today is a day for eating eels. (In case you wish to have further information about this event please refer to this).
As I just said, I don't think I ever actually ate eel on this day before, probably because I don't really care for eel on any given day of the year. Being away from my country, however, somehow made me more sensitive or nostalgic about such a traditional event back home. Well, it still didn't make me want to eat eel, though. And then early in this morning I came across this article (in Japanese); it was about making "mock broiled eel" for those poor Japanese who live overseas and are not able to readily get eel. Despite the fact that I live in Hawaii where Japanese food may be more widely available than most other places in the world (except for Japan, obviously) and can find eel easily, and that I don't like eel much anyways, I was tempted to try to make the mock broiled eel, in pure curiosity. The recipe calls for pork and prawn, minced and mixed with potato starch, spread on a nori (sheet of dried laver seaweed), deep-fried, and then brushed with soy sauce-based sweet sauce. Very interesting.
In the evening I ran to a nearby supermarket and got the ingredients for this dish. I vigorously minced pork and prawns, added in corn starch in place of potato starch, carefully spread it over small sheets of nori, and fried them (I don't like deep-frying, so I just used a decent amount of oil). Meanwhile, I prepared sauce by heating a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and white wine. Sadly, my pieces of unagi or eel looked nowhere close to the real one, but once they were done and brushed with the sauce and sprinkled with sansho or Japanese pepper, it at least smelled very much like a real broiled eel dish.
Do they resemble real stuff at all?
Luckily, while I was shopping and cooking, he wasn't with me - otherwise he would have showed me his deepest disgust (he hates fish/seafood and doesn't like pork very much, either). He did seem to be suspicious about what I was making, but I just hinted that it was something he doesn't like, and I used pork (I wasn't lying, was I?). Expecting that he wouldn't eat them, I made another dish quick, too.
At first bite, my unagi didn't taste like real unagi at all, I thought. But when I tried to remember how the real stuff would taste like, I couldn't quite get it; I had not eaten eel for so long and almost forgotten their taste. Once I had realized that, my unagi started tasting almost like really unagi... (how reliable my taste bud is??) At least I liked it better than the real eel; it was even good just as a dish.
Surprisingly, he didn't figure that there was prawn in them. I definitely tasted prawn, but it could have been because I knew that there were prawns... or, I don't know. Anyways, he even loved them and actually ate almost all of what we had. I wasn't sure if I should tell him the truth, but decided to withhold; maybe sometime, maybe not.
Note: In Japanese, doyo generally refers to Saturday and ushi to ox/cow, hence Doyo-no ushi-no hi could sound like meaning Saturday is the day to eat beef....