July 23, 2004

saturday's the day for beef?

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....


Santos said...

oh by all means, withhold! :-)

Reid said...

Hi Chika,

I love unagi! I didn't know that as a Japanese person I was supposed to eat unagi last night.....*hmmmmm* Instead, I had spaghetti....*sigh*....unagi would have been great actually! I'm not so sure that the dish looks like real unagi, but it looks tasty and sweet from all the glaze!

Cat said...

it looks interesting, the mock eel dish! i know what you mean, the nostalgia of being away from home on holidays... its really hard. i hope you get a chance to return home soon someday :)

im just curious -- why do you refer to your... husband/partner/boyffriend/roommate??? with italics? i almost get the feeling the way you speak of him is with contempt. is that true, or am i completely off?

well have an excellent holiday, even if you do celebrate it alone halfway across the world from where you should be, losing the tradition itself would be more sad i imagine. :)

Anonymous said...

Strange... very strange. My wife and I had been curious about which days were doyo-no-ushi because we had enjoyed going out on those days in particular to find eels when we lived in Japan. Actually, there was a great ¥700 eel joint just around the corner from my office, so I ate them at least once a week, often more often, for lunch. But anyway, we never bothered to look it up. On Tuesday Nanette slipped and fell and bashed her lip in the process. It was strange, no reason for it. So we were looking for some soft and comforting food for dinner. Eels, of course. Now, Tuesday night in Hawaii is Wednesday already in Japan, so it was doyo-no-ushi-no-hi if that was July 21. I didn't know that until just now, reading your post.

So now we know why she fell that day. Mystery solved.


Estelle said...

Yes, your mock eel looks like the reel one! Good job! Now, I also wonder who HE is :-) Anyway, have a great holiday.

chika said...

Hi all,

Santos - I am still fighting against temptation to tell him what he really ate! ;-)

Reid - Sorry I didn't make it clear, but "today" meant to be wednesday the 21st (I tend to be a few days behind in posting things...). And don't worry, because of tricks of the Japanese lunar calender (or whatsoever) there will be another Doyo-no ushi-no hi this summer, which is Augst 2nd, so you aren't missing out the event yet!

Cat - Thanks for the kind word! Good thing is I'm not so far away from home, well, geographically. And I refer to my partner as him in italics just to distinguish him from all other hims that appear in my posts, so that folks can tell it's "him" just like you guessed! With contempt? Not at all!

LarryG - I'm sorry to hear that your wife got hurt and hope it wasn't anything serious, but it was sucn a coincidence that you guys had "some" reason to eat eels on that particular day... subconscious?? And I had never looked up exactly which day is doyo-no ushi-no hi either, and would typically got reminded of the day by those signs of unagi when it nears! ;-) 700 yen unagi, by the way, isn't really bad... actually great!

Estelle - oh thanks for your compliment :-) yeah, it might be about time to refer to him in his real name... maybe??

Estelle said...

Yesss, the real name!!! Unless, of course, he's shy and would be uncomfortable... Which I can understand.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog and have fallen in love! Is it possible for you to post your Mock Eel recipe? Thank you in advance!

-Emily Drew ( (posted anon b/c w/o blogger account)

chika said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chika said...

Hi Estelle,
well, maybe sometime!

Hi Emily,
I asked Korisuke-san, the one who made the original recipe, if I could share his recipe here in English, and he generously ok'd it, so here you are:

+++Kolis Inn's Mock Broiled Eel+++

For the "eel"
1/2 lb pork
1/4 lb prawns, shelled and cleaned
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. potato starch
1 sheet nori (dried laver seaweed)
Flour for dusting
Oil for deep-frying

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pork, prawns, salt, and potato starch and process until the mixture is minced and smooth.
Cut the nori into six rectangular pieces and slightly flour them. Spread the pork-prawn mixture evenly over the nori pieces. Using the back of a knife, draw lines on the spread mixture so that they look like eels.
Heat oil to 325F in a deep skilet. Place the pieces in the oil, the nori-side down, and cook until they float up to the surface, for several minutes. Flip them over and cook until the mixture is thoroughly cooked, for about 2-3 minutes.

In the meantime, make glaze by combining soy sauce, Japanese sake (rice wine), and sugar in a ratio of 1:2:2, in a saucepan. Boil down the mixture until it looks like Teriyaki sauce.

Add in the eel to the saucepan of glaze and cover entirely. Serve hot/warm.

*I used corn starch in place of potato starch, and dry white wine in place of sake. As I wrote in the post, I didn't deep-fry and instead just pan-fried. I reduced all the ingredients to half, and used approx. 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce and 1 Tbs. each of sake and sugar.

The original recipe: hereCopyright (c) The Kolis Inn.
They have an English site as well: here they have useful information about Japanese cooking and ingredients, as well as recipes!

Many thanks to Korisuke-san!