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Unagi Hitsumabushi Nagoya Style Grilled Eel in a wooden bowl

Hitsumabushi (Nagoya style grilled eel)

  • Author: Yuto Omura
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 2 portions


How to make Hitsumabushi (Nagoya style grilled eel on rice)


Unagi Sauce


Extra condiments / toppings for hitsumabushi

  • 1/2 tbsp unagi sauce (to mix with rice)
  • 300ml hot dashi (for ochazuke)
  • green tea bag (2g) (for ochazuke)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (for ochazuke)
  • chopped spring onion
  • kizami nori
  • wasabi
  • white sesame seeds


Unagi Sauce

  1. Add turbinado sugar and dark brown sugar to a sauce pan. Place the pan on the stove and turn on the heat to medium-high.
    turbinado sugar and dark brown sugar in a pan to make unagi sauce
  2. Once the sugar starts to melt, add sake and mirin. Bring to boil and allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    melted sugar, mirin and sake in a sauce pan to make unagi sauce
  3. Add soy sauce and lower the heat to a simmer. 
    adding soy sauce to pan to make unagi sauce
  4. Simmer until thickened slightly (about 10 minutes). Stir occasionally to prevent the sugar from burning. Remove the scum/foam that forms on top.
    thickening unagi sauce in a saucepan
  5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while preparing the eel.

Unagi don

  1. Wash the filleted eel with cold running water.
  2. Cover a chopping board with a sheet of plastic wrap and place the eel on top. Cut each eel into 2-3 pieces by pressing a sharp knife into the area you want to cut, and pushing the eel back and forth over the plastic wrap.
    eels being cut on a plastic wrap
  3. Place the eel in a frying pan with the skin side down and add sake.
    steamed unagi eels in a frying pan
  4. Turn on the heat to medium and steam for 5 minutes with the lid on.
    steaming eels in a frying pan
  5. Remove it from the heat and line the grill with aluminium foil. Preheat the grill on medium-high for 5 minutes.
  6. Place the eel on the foil with the skin side down and grill for 6 minutes. 
    grilling unagi eel on a home grill
  7. Turn the eel over and grill the skin side for 5 minutes.
    flipping unagi eels over on a grill
  8. Apply the sauce generously but evenly over the skin and grill for 30 seconds.
    Applying unagi sauce on eels on skin side
  9. Turn the eel over and apply the sauce on the meat side and grill for 30 seconds.
    applying unagi sauce on meat side on a grill
  10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 twice more (3 times on each side in total). 
  11. Cut the grilled eel into strips.
    Grilled unagi (eel) cut into strips on a wooden chopping board
  12. Mix some of the left over unagi sauce with the rice. (Approx 1/2 tbsp per 2 portions of rice.)
    Cooked rice mixed with unagi sauce
  13. Divide the rice into wooden bowls and top with the grilled eel. Brush liberally with more unagi sauce.
    hitsumabushi in a wooden bowl

How to enjoy hitsumabushi (3 ways)

  1. Brew a green tea bag in hot dashi (approx 80C/175F) and add soy sauce. Brew for 2-4 minutes then remove the teabag. Serve in a teapot or jug placed on the table.
  2. Divide the eel and rice into quarters using a rice paddle.
    Dividing unagi hitsumabushi into quarters using a wooden rice paddle
  3. Take out the first quarter and place it in an individual rice bowl. Eat as it is. (Optional - Sprinkle with sansho pepper to taste.)
    hitsumabushi in a rice bowl sprinkled with sansho pepper
  4. Place the second quarter into the same bowl and add toppings such as chopped spring onion, kizami nori or wasabi.
    hitsumabushi in a rice bowl topped with chopped spring onions and kizami nori
  5. For the third quarter, add it to the bowl and then pour the dashi tea over the top. (This is also good with wasabi and additional toppings.)
    Hitsumabushi in a green rice bowl steeped in dashi/green tea broth as "unagi chazuke"
  6. Enjoy the final quarter using your favourite from the 3 above.
  7. Enjoy!
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Seafood
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Japanese

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