Unagi, the Japanese eel, is an important part of Japanese cuisine, and quite tasty when marinated and grilled. It is also an especially nutritious fish, and the health benefits of unagi are numerous.

If you’ve ever patronized a sushi restaurant, you probably noticed that many of the sushi rolls contain an ingredient called “unagi” — better known as Japanese eel. Although an eel may closely resemble a snake, it is, in fact, a type of fish/ And it’s quite a tasty one!

It’s okay if at first you have a natural aversion to the idea of eating eel — many people, even avid sushi lovers, tend to shy away from unagi. This is a shame because when you see the actual eel dish, it resembles just another piece of fish. And when you taste the soft yet firm meat of unagi, you’ll likely change your whole stance on eating eel.

What Does Unagi Taste Like?

Of course, if you already enjoy unagi, then you are well aware of the subtle sweet flavor that’s slightly chewy, somewhat reminiscent of raw salmon. Others might say the taste more closely resembles catfish.

Whatever you think, unagi is always tastier when served with an accompanying seasoning or sauce. The Japanese eel readily absorbs the flavors of the various sauces that may be drizzled over it or served on the side for dipping. Eel sauce, in particular, is a popular condiment. Eel sauce is thick, savory and sweet, lending a great deal of umami to eel and many other maki rolls.

The taste might also be affected by how eel is prepared and served. Grilled, smoked or deep-fried are just some of the more common preparations for unagi. In Japan, eels are an important part of the cultural cuisine, so much so that they even have a day dedicated to unagi. Traditionally, the eel is butterflied, marinated and grilled, or served atop a donburi rice bowl.

Uncover everything you need to know about doburi

Health Benefits of Unagi

The health benefits of the Japanese eel are also quite extensive, and the fish also packs a lot of nutrition. The fact that people in Japan consume eel is probably yet another reason the country is one of the healthiest on the planet.

For starters, eel contains a great assortment of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B12 and phosphorous. This mineral is especially important to health because it helps to balance your body’s PH levels, improve digestion and metabolism, and enable the body to better absorb nutrients.

Unagi is also high in omega-3. It helps to improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduce the risks of diabetes and arthritis. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also health benefits more specific to women. These include:

  • Easing menstrual pain
  • Reducing wrinkles and improving the health of the skin
  • Slowing down tumor growth
  • Reducing the risks of breast cancer
  • Improving blood flow to the brain, improving memory and learning, and possibly reducing the risk of dementia

So the next time you see eel on the menu, why not be adventurous and give it a try? Still not convinced? Well, you might also be interested to know that eel is an aphrodisiac!

Unagi does tend to be a bit more expensive than other types of fish in a Japanese restaurant.  So, if the price of an unagi dish is a little high, then try it in a maki roll instead. Accompanied by other fish or sushi ingredients, it can be a great introduction to the taste of unagi.

Try something new. ABCs of sushi guide here!