Eel, or unagi, is a crowd favorite in most sushi bars. Making eel sushi at home is much easier than most people think! If you have an Asian market in your area, you can make unagi nigiri, a caterpillar roll, or the classic eel roll in under 30 minutes.
All 3 species of eel used for unagi have been added to the sustainable seafood advisory list. While most packages say “farm raised,” they are NOT bred in captivity. Instead, they are captured at a young age and then raised in farms. Please consume responsibly, as this is an EXTREMELY unsustainable food source.
If you don’t recommend we eat eel, why are you showing us how to prepare it?
This site is based around education. I would be a bad teacher if I didn’t show you how to make a certain sushi dish. However, just because it is so common, doesn’t mean that we should contribute to the diminishing populations of these creatures.
Unagi typically comes in an air tight, frozen package that is priced according to the size of the fillet. Unagi is also fairly expensive and it is recommended that you don’t eat it often.
To prepare eel for sushi, you will need:
- Cutting board
- Sharp Knife
- Wet towel or rag
- Two plates
- Paper towels
Cutting for nigiri:
- Carefully slice open the package, take out the eel, and wipe off most of the sauce that it’s stored in.
- Take your knife and make two cuts down the center of the fillet. This is where the spine is located. While the bones are technically edible, it greatly detracts from the flavor.
- Lay the two pieces of eel vertically on your cutting board.
- Very carefully, angle your knife between 30-45 degree in your hand. Starting at a 120 degree angle to the eel, make long cuts from left to right- making sure to maintain both angles.
- Work from the bottom up, making a cut every 1-1.5 inches.
- Repeat steps 3-5 for both pieces.
- Now you have your pieces for nigiri or to place on top of a roll!
Cutting for eel sushi (rolls):
Carefully slice open the package, take out the eel, and wipe off most of the sauce that it’s stored in.
- Take your knife and make two cuts down the center of the fillet. This is where the spine is located. While the bones are technically edible, it greatly detracts from the flavor. Sound familiar?
- Put the two pieces back together and cut them in half, horizontally (90 degree angle).
- Now take each piece, individually, and cut it in half vertically. This will give you nice, long pieces to put inside your roll.
That’s it! It’s very simple. Now you are ready to roll.
It is important to note that although eel sushi is pre cooked before it is packaged, most sushi bars will reheat the eel in either a toaster oven or a microwave oven. Be careful not to overheat the eel!
Here are some interesting facts about Eel sushi:
- Eel is very high in protein, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E
- In Japan, unagi is believed to give you increased stamina. Because of this, the Japanese eat unagi during the Ox Festival
- Most people in Japan believe that eel is best enjoyed during the hotter months
- It is not uncommon to cook eel more than once. In Eastern Japan, they grill, steam, and then grill their eel again. This helps make the meat very tender!
- All packaged eel is precooked and ready to eat out of the package. Though, most people heat the eel before serving
- Most eel is accompanied by Eel Sauce
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