Unaju (“Grilled eel fillets served with cooked rice”)


What is Unaju?

Have you had Unaju before? It is a Japanese bowl dish with grilled eel fillets over white rice. Actually, instead of bowl, we normally use a box painted with Japanese lacquer for Unaju. If you have not tried it yet, I would highly recommend trying it once. The eel meat dissolves as soon as entering your mouth with good roasting smell. In general, if you want to have grilled eel fillets served with while rice, you have to go to Unaju restaurants. Some Sushi restaurants may serve sushi with eels but they don’t normally provide Unaju.


One of the restaurants that serve Unaju is called “Nodaiwa” which is an eel restaurant with a 200-year-old history and is considered one of the best in the Tokyo area. There are more than a few locations but the one in Azabu-Iikura is the main restaurant. You must get to the restaurant early to get a seat if you are not making a reservation as it gets packed pretty quickly. They follow their own traditional way of cooking eels: Cleaned, skewered and then slowly grilled over a charcoal fire using Japanese wood. The interior of the restaurant has a retro touch to it, which adds an extra flavor to the dining experience. Fresh wild eels are available during mid-April to early November. In other months, farmed eels are used to make Unaju. I would recommend eating Unaju without adding anything first so that you can enjoy the taste of eels. Then, add Japanese sansho pepper on them, which gives you sharp, tingling sensation.

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