Unagi Kabayaki Recipe.Unagi means japanese freshwater eel, and kabayaki refers broiled unagi fillet. Kabayaki is a japanese style cooking, the eel butterflied from the back side, gutted, deboned, drenched with sweetened soy sauce, skewerred with bamboo skewer then broiled in a charcoal grill until the unagi eel filet cooked. Kabayaki is not only for cooking eel but also several kind of fish like my Sanma Kabayaki or Broiled Pacific Saury in Japanese Sweet Soy Sauce Recipe
Unagi or Japanese freshwater eel is usually available in a Japanese supermarket. Unagi kabayaki is also available ready to eat, usually vaccum packed and frozen, all you need to do is reheated is in a microwave or simply pan fried it in a skillet. A small pack of unagi kabayaki cost me about 14 USD, i love the umami flavour but not the texture, the unagi eel meat texture is spongy and flaky instead of moist and succulent. You may seen the frozen japanese eel or unagi, never choose unvaccum sealed eel or any kind of fish fillet, choose only vaccum packed unagi eel fillet otherwise you purchased for tasteless and spongy eel meat. So i personally i prefer the raw unagi fillet better than then cooked it kabayaki style myself, because the properly vaccum sealed raw unagi eel fillet is still moist and succulent ofter cooked.
Kabayaki style grilled unagi eel usually skewered with bamboo skewer before glazed with swetened soy sauce and broiled over charcoal grill. Asian really depend on bamboo skewer, we used it to made Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce or Chinese Honey Grilled Pork Belly Charsiew. Remember to soak the bamboo skewer in a cold tab water overnight or simply boiling it for ten minutes before you using it, otherwise the bamboo skewer is easily burned out over the grill.
Homemade kabayaki sauce for glazing the gilled unagi or freshwater eel is usually made of 3 parts light soy sauce, 1 part mirin, 1 part sake, and 2 parts white caster sugar by volume. This is the basic kabayaki sauce recipe and the ratio used to be different for each licking, beside, whole cloves garlic, cinnamon, star anise and sliced ginger added when the kabayaki sauce is simmerred until thickened into half amount. Kabayaki sauce taste sweet because the addition of sugar and mirin (sweet rice wine), so i guess kabayaki sauce should be called swetened soy sauce, do not confuse with kecap manis or Indonesian sweet soy sauce.Making your own unagi kabayaki with store brought kabayaki sauce made your life easier. Store brought kabayaki sauce usually using molases instead of sugar as a swetened agent, this made the store brought kabayaki sauce is not easily burn during the grilling process. That’s why molasses is more preferred than sugar for any glazing barbeque sauce, including kabayaki sauce. Homemade kabayaki sauce is not only suits for grilling fish, but also for chicken fillet, shrimp or any kind of seafoods.
In Indonesia, we familiar with swamp eel, with many kind of names: asian eel, rice field eel, padi field eel. Slightly different with unagi, swamp eel is finless. The taste is quite similiar, but i guess the unagi is fattier and meatier than swamp eel. The basic preparation of swamp eel for making kabayaki is also similiar with unagi. You can watch how to do it in how to butterfly eel for kabayaki
I love nose to tail concept of eating, nothing edible part of the animal left behind and discarded. This is the best way to honour the sacrifation of the aniwal live. I love to eat the eel bone, it’s crunchy and crispy. The unagi or japanese eel bone is marinated with salt, pepper and lime juice then deep fried in a medium heat flame uti it’s crisp up, totally scrumptious. I even ever had a fish bone crusted fish steak in a restaurant, the fish ribs bone deep fried and then crumbled on top of halibut fillet.
Growing up in Indonesia is made me familiar with swamp eel, especially in my childhood. Beside the fact that eel is a brain food within it’s essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid that help to improve a chind brain’s neurotransmitter capability that basically made you think faster. In indonesia we used to called griled eel as belut bakar kecap manis or simply belut panggang kecap. We didn’t use kabayaki sauce for making belut bakar kecap, but it’s using kecap manis or or Indonesia sweet soy sauce, just like my Balinese Style Barbequed Baby Back Ribs sauce. Large swamp eel about 300-400 grams each suits for making kabayaki style grilled eel, but the smaller is usually batterred and deep fried just like my Deep Fried Beer Batter Calamary or Squid Ring.
Unagi Kabayaki Recipe( Japanese Style Grilled Freshwater Eel with Sweetened Soy Sauce):
- 2 large unagi or Japanese eel about 200-300 grams each (You can replace with swamp eel or conger ell or any kind of eel you’ve got)
- 1 lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup kabayaki sauce and more for glazing the grilled eel
- Bamboo skewer, soaked in a water overnight to prevent it burning over the grill
How to Make Unagi Kabayaki:
- You can watch how to preparing live unagi eel for kabayaki here
- Kill the unagi eel by made incision in the back of the head until the eel died bleeding
- Cut open the unagi eel from the backside by running a very sharp boning knive alongside the backbone
- Take out the unagi eel guts
- Wash the unagi eel under a cold running water, rub and clean the reddish black part in the center of the cavity below the back bone
- Remove the unagi eel back bone by running the sharp boning knive within the backbone from the head to the tail
- Cut the unagi eel into bite pieces
- Pat dry the excess moisture using kitchen paper
- Put the unagi eel fillet in a bambo skewer
- Apply the homemade kabayaki sauce all over the unagi eel
- Broil the kabayaki sauce glazed unagi eel until the kabayaki sauce is caramelised and the unagi eel is cooked through, flip it over to prevent the kabayaki sauce burned out.
- Apply more kabayaki sauce in the unagi eel meat side twice during the broiling process
- Served the unagi kabayaki immediately with steaming hot rice.
Homemade Kabayaki Sauce Recipe for Grilling Unagi or Eel:
- 300 ml light soy sauce
- 100 ml mirin
- 10o ml sake
- 200 ml molases or sugar (i’m using palm sugar)
How to Make Kabayaki Sauce :
- Mix all ingredients in a heavy bottom non stick sauce pan, bring it to boil
- Simmer the kabayaki sauce over low heat until thicken into half