Unadon is a typical Japanese dish consisting of grilled unagi (eel) fillets placed over steamed rice. The unagi is made kabayaki-style, like teriyaki. The fillets are coated with a sweetened soy-based sauce (also known as tare) and caramelized, generally over a charcoal fire.
Traditionally, pulverized dried berries of sanshō (also known as Japanese pepper) are added on top as seasoning. There are many different recipes that are used to prepare this dish. For example, in Kantō, the eel is, by convention, steamed prior to grilling. It helps in obtaining a more tender fish, while in Kansai, it is just grilled without steaming.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Unadon is believed to have been the first kind of donburi rice dish created in the late Edo period, during the Bunka era (1804–1818). A man named Imasuke Ōkubo of Sakai-machi is known to have invented it.
Today, as well as from Japan, unadon is also commonly consumed in Taiwan and the United States.
Japanese Unadon Recipe
- Frozen grilled eel fillet - 1 pack
- Cooking sake - 2 tbsp
- Cooked rice (hot) - 200g
Unadon Tare (Sauce)
- Cooking sake - 1 tbsp
- Mirin - 2 tbsp
- Soy sauce - 2 tbsp
- Sugar - 1½ tbsp
- Sanshō powder
For Unadon Tare:
- In a small saucepan, bring the cooking sake and mirin to a boil.
- After about a minute, add the remaining ingredients and, if using, the head or tail of the eel to the pan.
- As soon as it begins to boil again, lower the heat and allow the sauce to cook until it thickens. One way to ensure that the sauce is cooked is by noticing the bubbles on the surface becoming bigger and the sauce being reduced to almost half the volume.
- Take the pan off the heat. By the time the sauce cools down completely, it will have thickened further.
Warming Up the Grilled Eel Fillet
- Make sure to cut the head off (if your grilled eel comes with one) and add it to your unadon tare.
- The next step is to halve the fillet. It will allow you to have both the front and the back half of the fillet.
- Now, transfer the fillets to a non-stick frying pan, avoiding overlapping. Keep in mind to place them skin-side down and add 1 tablespoon of cooking sake on top of the fish.
- Reduce the heat to low and let the fillets steam cook for about 1 minute with a lid on.
- After a minute, turn the fillet over, allowing the other side to cook. If you feel there is less liquid in the pan, add the remaining sake and cook it for another minute.
- Turn the fillet over again before taking the pan off of the heat.
- Begin by placing the rice in the bottom of a serving bowl. Level the surface.
- With the help of a basting brush, baste the rice surface with the tare.
- Add the eel fillets on top of the rice, skin side down. Add the remaining sauce.
- Finally, sprinkle a little bit of sanshō on top and serve hot.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 558Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 46mgSodium: 1891mgCarbohydrates: 95gFiber: 1gSugar: 34gProtein: 15g