Easy Japanese Recipes

Unagi Don (Unadon) 鰻丼

Unagi Don | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

In my last post, I talked about the delicious char-grilled unagi (eel) I had at an unagi specialty restaurant in Yokohama during my Japan trip.  For those of you who are not as familiar with Japanese cuisine, you might be thinking we are barbaric eaters!  Well, to be honest with you, I grew up eating eels without feeling it was a foreign ingredient.  When unagi was served, it always looked like a typical fish fillet to me… don’t you agree as well looking at the picture above?

I was surprised when I found out what eels actually looked like in an aquarium at a young age.  It was hard to connect the dots between the snake looking fish in the water and “the fish” I was eating, and I was shocked at myself that I actually liked eating them.  For better or for worse, that experience did not stop me enjoying unagi all these years.  The combination of delicious warm rice and glistering sweet caramel-like unagi sauce (we call it “unagi no tare”) over the perfectly grilled unagi is simply irresistible.

Unagi Don | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Unagi sushi are pretty popular and available at most sushi restaurants, but the satisfaction from eating just-grilled unagi on top of warm rice is completely different and can not be compared.  Just aroma of the sauce is enough to make my mouth water.  If you are planning to visit Japan, I hope you will find a good unagi restaurant and give it a try.

Sometimes my local Japanese supermarket sells imported unagi from Japan.  They are usually more expensive between $18-$25 USD each (Frozen unagi from other countries are usually around $9 USD each.).  If you are able to find Japanese unagi in your local market, you are in for a real treat!  The unagi can be kept frozen until you’re ready to enjoy since they are sealed in in vacuum-sealed package.  This unagi is from Kagoshima, Japan.

Cooked Unagi (Eel)

Most Japanese don’t buy a live eel to cook at home.  We buy pre-grilled unagi or ones that are grilled and vacuum-packed.

This style of cooking is called kabayaki (蒲焼), similar to Teriyaki.  It’s a very typical way to prepare unagi but other fish that can be prepared the same way as well.  Basically the fish is split down the back (or belly), gutted and boned, butterflied, cut into square fillets, skewered, and dipped in a sweet soy sauce based sauce before broiled on a charcoal grill.  In the Tokyo region, the skewered eel is first broiled without the sauce, and we call it Shirayaki (白焼き).  Then the unagi are steamed, before being dipped in the sauce and grilled again.

When unagi is served in a bowl like above, it’s called Unadon (鰻丼) but when it’s served in a fancy square lacquer box, it is called Unaju (鰻重) because the tiered laquaured boxes are called jubako (重箱).


Lastly I want to mention the great nutritious benefit of eating unagi.  Unagi is rich in vitamins A and E, and Omega-3 fatty acids.  From Edo Period (1600-1850), we have a tradition to eat unagi on a particular mid-summer day called doyō-no ushi-no-hi (土用の丑の日) in order to gain stamina from the hot summer heat.

Today I will share how to prepare Unagi Don (Unadon) using a vacuumed-pack unagi along with homemade unagi sauce.  You can buy premade Unagi Sauce from a Japanese (or Asian) market, but you can easily make it at home and this sauce recipe is delicious!  I even use it for Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Rice Balls) if I have any leftover sauce.

Unagi Don | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

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Unagi Don (Unadon)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 servings
Unagi Sauce (Unagi Tare)*
  1. Start making Unagi Sauce. Combine mirin and sake in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil to evaporate alcohol.
  2. Add sugar and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Then add soy sauce and bring it to a boil. Then reduce heat and continue cooking on simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat to cool it down.
  3. Cut Unagi in half (or maybe third) to fit inside your serving bowls. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush oil lightly (I use spray oil). Place unagi on top.
  4. WITHOUT preheat, put the baking sheet in the MIDDLE rack of your oven, and broil on high for 7 minutes (no need to flip).
  5. After 7 minutes or so, take it out and brush the Unagi Sauce over.
  6. Continue to broil for another 30 seconds to 60 seconds until you see bubbles on top of Unagi.
  7. Serve rice in a bowl and pour or brush Unagi Sauce on the rice. Serve Unagi on top of rice and pour/brush more Unagi Sauce. Serve immediately. You can also sprinkle some Sansho.
*I updated the sauce recipe to ⅓ of my original recipe for just 2 fillets (However, the step-by-step pictures above show my original recipe portion).

I usually make unagi sauce with the following recipe and use it whenever I need instead of making it in small portion each time. You can store the sauce in the refrigerator.

My original recipe:
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup (4.4oz/125g) sugar
1/4 cup sake.

For re-heating unagi, you can use a frying pan, but I recommend you to use the oven broiler.  If you don't have an oven, you can use an oven toaster as well.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.


Update: Recipe updated in July 2012

Posted in: 30 Minutes Or Less, Easy Dinner Ideas, One Dish Meals, Quick & Easy, Rice & Donburi, Sauces, Dressings & Condiments, Seafood, Summer

Leave a Comment

+ one = 6

  • Priyanka May 31, 2012, 12:09 am

    Nami, this looks delicious! I will definitely be on the lookout for good, frozen eel when I am at Nijiya next. Quick question – which temperature do you bake the unagi at for the initial 7 minutes prior to broiling? Thanks so much! :)

    • Nami May 31, 2012, 12:22 am

      Hi Priyanka! Sorry for confusion. We just need to broil and no baking. I edited my sentence so hope it’s clear instruction now. Thanks for letting me know!

  • Jill Colonna May 31, 2012, 12:25 am

    What a great tutorial – even different names for the shape of dishes it’s served in? This is fascinating, Nami. Glad it’s not a live eel, mind and it does look so tasty. In Corsica they eat eel but I’ve been too shy to give it a go, but if I could get to a unagi restaurant, I’d definitely dig in! Even better yours homemade.

  • Mel May 31, 2012, 12:29 am

    I am drooling, drooling, drooling…….but cannot taste it…..

  • kat May 31, 2012, 12:35 am

    my husband’s favorite!

  • Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover May 31, 2012, 1:33 am

    Oh, this is my favourite! and your recipe is so easy to follow, i must make this soon. Thanks for sharing Nami..

  • Ann@Anncoo Journal May 31, 2012, 2:24 am

    This is favorite too! Thanks for sharing how to prepare the sauce, Nami :)

  • Liz May 31, 2012, 3:04 am

    What a gorgeous dish…I would never have thought “eel.” Maybe I should give unagi another chance…it’s my sister’s favorite sushi, but the creepy eel was always in the back of my mind while eating it :/ Have a wonderful day, Nami!!!

  • Natalie May 31, 2012, 3:59 am

    This reminds me of what I eat almost everyday for lunch. Fish, rice, and veggies! Love it Nami!

  • Sandra May 31, 2012, 4:08 am

    I am always impressed by the presentation of your meals. They are so beautifully put together and they look likes it’s taken you hours to pull them together. I am also in love with all of your dishes!

  • Rosa May 31, 2012, 4:18 am

    I’d love to taste that scrumptious dish! I’ve never eaten eel…



  • Blackswan May 31, 2012, 4:22 am

    Hey Nami, I finally got your 1st post delivered to my inbox! My hubby is a huge fan of Unagi, I’m sure he’ll love this recipe. How have u been? Must be busy after your trip. I feel the same way too. So much to catch up :)

  • starmonkey3 May 31, 2012, 4:25 am

    We purchase the frozen eels at our local asian grocery store. It’s pricey..but so worth it. Just pop them in the oven! My husband loves these these!

  • May S May 31, 2012, 4:45 am

    Hi Nami.
    You must be reading my mind. I recently bougth two eel filets from my local asian market, and I have wondered how I could make this dish myself at home.
    And today you post the recipe. Thank you so much!!
    I love your blog, it’s a big inspiration to me!

  • Belinda @zomppa May 31, 2012, 4:47 am

    It is funny the moment kids (or adults) make the connection between what is on their plates and where it came from…unfortunately, there are a lot who still don’t know! This dish belongs in a five-star!

  • Sissi May 31, 2012, 4:51 am

    Nami, this is the most beautiful and appetising unagi don I have ever seen in my life. Your eel looks so much better than the one from the restaurant in Japan! You are a real professional. I love eel but it’s usually disappointing in restaurants here… (even the disappointing one is still good for a fan of eel). I see it often frozen in my grocery shop, but I have always assumed it’s not very good. If you say it’s ok, I will buy it! You make the preparation sound so easy too. Thank you for the wonderful recipe and for the encouragement.
    PS Have you ever had smoked eel? It’s a real delicacy but I don’t know if it’s popular in the US.

  • yummychunklet May 31, 2012, 4:58 am

    I love eel with the unagi sauce! I always order a bowl and an order of unagi maki!

  • Mandy - The Complete Cook Book May 31, 2012, 5:04 am

    I must say that your first picture was very mouth watering Nami, I have only ever eaten eel once, which was pan fried in a little butter and olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
    :-) Mandy

  • Ellena | Cuisines Paradise May 31, 2012, 5:05 am

    This is my mum’s favourite rice bowl. With your quick and easy recipe I can follow the steps and make for her when is over at my place :) Thanks Nami.

  • Suzi May 31, 2012, 5:10 am

    Wow, I have never eaten eel before but it does look appetizing and I love the sauce. Beautiful photos as always. Hope you have a wonderful day.

  • Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef May 31, 2012, 5:22 am

    Nami, you have the most beautiful blog. Everything is always well laid out, easy to understand and your styling and photography is second to none.

    Gorgeous meal!

  • Sylvia@Peaches and Donuts May 31, 2012, 5:23 am

    I love love love Unagi Don! That’s usually my first choice when I visit a Japanese restaurant but of course I can’t always order it, if not I will never ever get to try other dishes!! Your looks better than any I’ve tried though so I think you should come over here and open a restaurant! That will be brilliant!!

  • Lyn @LovelyPantry May 31, 2012, 5:43 am

    I think I’d try it! I really would! I’d try the Unaju because the boxes look beautiful :-) It might be expensive, but some things are well worth it from time to time.

  • Eha May 31, 2012, 6:04 am

    Wish I could reach into the computer for that unagi don :) ! So beautifully appetizing! Dare say the frozen eel is available up in Sydney – unfortunately that’s over 100 kms ‘up’ the road! As I probably mentioned before; I absolutely love eel, but most of my life have eaten it either smoked or jellied [wonderful, wonderful flavour!], N European style.

  • Ira Rodrigues May 31, 2012, 6:09 am

    Would love to make it spicy unagi :)) *although I never eat ell :(
    Btw, its great glossy food photo nami, you’re the master when its come to make me drooling

  • Lisa (AuthenticSuburbanGourmet) May 31, 2012, 6:19 am

    What a beautiful presentation! My hubby loves Unagi and I bet he would be in heaven with your dish! Hope you have a great Thursday. :-)

  • Ali B May 31, 2012, 6:46 am

    I actually tried Eel sushi for the first time earlier this year and I enjoyed it as long as I wasn’t thinking about it too much :P Don’t know if I’m brave enough to make it on my own but that Unagi sauce sounds amazing!

  • Ramona May 31, 2012, 6:48 am

    Nami, I would have never thought that I would want to try eel… but after seeing how you bought it cut and packaged (doesn’t look like the real life one) and prepared it… it looks fantastic. Great Job! :)

  • Catalina @ Cake with Love May 31, 2012, 6:57 am

    Nice done, this is an amazing recipe, and now I crave it!!! LOL! I love your photos, they always look so neat!

  • Cassie May 31, 2012, 7:26 am

    I love unagi, especially in sushi. And this sauce sounds like one that I would adore. And so simple to do at home. Love this one, Nami!

  • Lyndsey@TheTinySkillet May 31, 2012, 7:32 am

    Nami this looks beautiful, just like a Japanese restaurant only better!! I would love to take a bite of this. I wish I had a japanese market near me. The Asian markets around me are Korean and vietnamese. They do carry some Japanese and Chinese food items so I might be able to find it.

  • Shannon | JustAsDelish May 31, 2012, 8:49 am

    I love unagi, I always have to restrain myself from ordering any unagi dishes so I get to try other type of dishes! I used to think Japanese buy and cook fresh eel at home.. haha thanks for clarifying! We’re lucky there’s many Japanese supermarket here like Isetan & Sogo, I’ve seen many vacuum packed unagi sold, but I’ve never bought any, didn’t know it’s so easy to prepare especially for weeknight meals.

  • Priscilla M May 31, 2012, 9:17 am

    This is my younger son’s have dish! Looking so delicious, Nami!

  • Priscilla M May 31, 2012, 9:18 am

    Sorry, correction (no thanks to auto correct!).

    This is my younger son’s favorite dish! Looking so delicious, Nami!

  • love2dine May 31, 2012, 9:27 am

    this looks amazing. i love unagi.. especially with hot rice. yummy!

  • Ꮮуռ (ᶬˠ ᶩᶤᵗᵗᶥᵋ ᵐᵋˢˢᵞ ᴻ ᶜʱᵋᵋᵏᵞ) May 31, 2012, 9:33 am

    Hi Nami! How are you? Hope you’re as great! :D
    Know what? Unagi is the very first kabayaki I fell in love (at first bite!) with when I first tried until now! My husband was influenced till date too and now, both my girls! LOL ;)
    I’ll always buy frozen unagi from supermarkets, heating it up in boiling water (with the packaging) for a few mins and our quick-meals are done with a bowl of rice! I bought a bottle of unagi sauce last month but always forgotten (when remembered, I realized that I don’t know how should I use it! Too funny, right!? LOL!) to use. Now with your unadon post, I can make good use of my unused sauce! :)

    Have a wonderful weekend! ;)

  • mycookinghut May 31, 2012, 10:55 am

    I just love unagi don! The last time when I was in Japan, I had to eat twice before I left Tokyo!

  • DB May 31, 2012, 10:57 am

    Once again, a great dish!

  • Candice May 31, 2012, 11:20 am

    Hi Nami, Wow! I never knew there were different names for the different dish the unagi is served in. Thanks for sharing with us how to make unagi sauce. I never knew how simple the ingredients were. I’m a bit confused still with making the unagi. You mentioned not to preheat the oven. Do I just place the baking sheet and then start the oven?

    P.s. I just saw you were featured on Hodo Soy’s June e-blast. =)



    • Nami June 1, 2012, 12:51 am

      Hi Candice! 7 minutes is for broiling without preheat. Yes, just put the baking sheet in the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes. :-)

      Thanks for letting me know about the Hodo Soy’s e-blast feature. :-)

  • Kimmi May 31, 2012, 11:27 am

    The photos make the dish look so tempting! And I appreciate the easy-to-follow recipe. =) Thanks also for sharing the additional tidbits of info about unagi, the history, and the culture surrounding the dish — I love the little extras!

  • Laura (Tutti Dolci) May 31, 2012, 11:32 am

    Beautiful presentation, Nami! I hope you are having a great week!

  • Grubarazzi (@Grubarazzi) May 31, 2012, 11:33 am

    O…M…G… this is happening, in my house, real real soon.

  • Beth Michelle May 31, 2012, 12:18 pm

    I very recently started eating eel at my favorite Japanese restaurant in NY and it has over the last couple of years become one of my favorites!! This looks like such a fabulous dish that I would LOVE to have for dinner. I may have to wait till Im back stateside to find this ingredient to cook with!!

  • A_Boleyn May 31, 2012, 12:55 pm

    I love unagi but the price is quite high so I cheat and make my own ‘fake’ unagi using basa (a kind of catfish) fillets that are marinated in unagi sauce and then grilled in the oven. Just as tasty and a LOT cheaper:) I also put it in my sushi rolls but I’ve never thought to put it on top of a donburi.

    I’ve only made okayadon (you made a nice comment on my post) or katsu donburi.


  • Mi Vida en un Dulce May 31, 2012, 1:00 pm

    I love this kind of meals, with that sweet touch on the flavor. The souce you used give the unagi (“anguila”) a beatiful color.

  • Choc Chip Uru May 31, 2012, 1:00 pm

    This looks like a very exotic dish my friend – it is a little different to the seafood I am used to seeing but I love looking at new ingredients :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  • Nandita May 31, 2012, 1:39 pm

    I just loved the photography Nami. And that read bowl is to die for :)

  • donna mikasa May 31, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Oh, my mouth is watering! Thank you for the tare recipe, which sounds simple and delicious and makes such a difference for a good unadon! Can’t wait to try this! Thank you for sharing!

  • Cucina49 May 31, 2012, 1:52 pm

    Ooh, that looks awfully good. Unagi is one of my go-tos at sushi restaurants. Yours looks beautifully cooked and lacquered with that gorgeous sauce.

  • Charles May 31, 2012, 2:01 pm

    I had/have the same problem – I just can’t believe sometimes that the “snake” will end up being this big, wonderful looking piece of fish flesh. I can’t remember if I enjoyed eel or not – is it eel that has loads of bones or am I thinking or something else… ah, maybe I’m thinking of pike actually, which people don’t usually eat.

    This looks wonderful Nami – so glossy and golden… it’s an excellent tribute to the memory of the last meal you had in Japan in that restaurant!

  • Evelyne@cheapethniceatz May 31, 2012, 2:13 pm

    I had this particular dish before trying it as sushi, loved it. I am a fan of the eel as I said last time. This looks so delicious, as usual with your posts :-)

  • gloria May 31, 2012, 3:25 pm

    aahh dear Look wonderful and delicious and of course love your pics!!

  • wok with ray May 31, 2012, 4:10 pm

    I love eating eel and my favorite order in Japanese restaurants. This dish that you prepared looks heavenly delicious, my goodness. You mean the name of the dish changes because of changes of plate, or bowl they are served in? How interesting, Nami! I am learning a lot of things from you about Japanese dishes. Thank you for the new knowledge, Nami! :)

    ~ ray ~

  • Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious May 31, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Yay, I’ve been waiting for this post! I didn’t know homemade unagi was so doable! I know unagi is a bit pricey on all but I seriously want to have this at least 3 times a week!

  • Nic@diningwithastud May 31, 2012, 5:20 pm

    The unagi sauce on this looks so amazing! So ticky and delicious :D

  • Rowena @ Apron and Sneakers May 31, 2012, 6:04 pm

    I have a strange relationship with eels. I like eating them like the unagi in the Japanese restaurants or when cooked the Italian way but when I am reminded how they really are, I retreat. LOL!

  • balvinder ( Neetu) May 31, 2012, 6:09 pm

    I have never eaten eel but it looks delicious the way you have cooked.I always like your presentation.

  • Rhonda May 31, 2012, 6:18 pm

    One of the sushi rolls I love so much has eel like this on the top. I want to try to make this!

  • Chopinand @ ChopinandMysaucepan May 31, 2012, 6:23 pm

    Dear Nami,

    Unagi is one of my favourites simple Japanese meal at home. Thankfully we can get eel so easily that is vacuum packed like yours and it already has the unagi sauce inside. I love this meal with a steaming hot bowl of miso soup in winter!

  • chinmayie @ love food eat May 31, 2012, 6:58 pm

    You make even the simplest things look so good!Such vibrant colors.

  • Shaz (shazkitchen) May 31, 2012, 7:37 pm

    Looks amazing as usual :) have a great day ahead!

  • Suzanne May 31, 2012, 9:03 pm

    The eel looks just like fish in the bowl, your picture are quite mouth watering. My husband grilled a rattle snack once so it looks a little similar. I love your posts they are so educational for me :).

  • anna May 31, 2012, 9:11 pm

    ha! it’s so unfair how non-asians latch onto certain ingredients as weird or gross, when we eat things that are just as weird and gross! cheese is age old rotten milk! we are just used to it.

    anyway, unagi is my fav! i love it in sushi, i’ve never had a big fillet like this. i’ll have to see if i can find it!

  • Kim Bee May 31, 2012, 9:48 pm

    I can’t help but think of the Friends episode when I see Unagi. This looks amazing Nami. Love the step by step.

  • Denise May 31, 2012, 10:12 pm

    Beautiful, beautiful photos and post. I love all the info and even the explanantion of names of cooking style and serving, even with the kanji :-)
    Unagi is one of my kids favorite japanese dishes and sushi. They began eating it before they knew what an eel looked like, I was a bit more apprehensive but enjoyed still. I always think about how I don’t want to eat cute little animals so why do I shy away from eating ones I think are not so cute :-)
    I am so glad to have the unagi sauce recipe, very simple but I have tried to make it and not had it turn out like I wanted. Can’t wait to try yours. I wonder if this sauce is similar to the one they put on grilled skewers of pounded rice that they cooked on the streets in some little mountain town– so good!
    Anyway, I LOVE reading your posts and look forward to trying it out when I am able. I hope I can find some unagi in Denver when I go there next time.

  • Jeno @ Week Nite Meals May 31, 2012, 10:29 pm

    Nami I love unagi! Though to tell you the truth, I do not remember eating them other than sushi pieces. The sauce sounds so wonderful, my stomach is growling while looking at your photos, it’s 12:28am and I really should stop thinking about food!

    Trini officially started her Summer vacation, tomorrow we are meeting with a couple of ladies and their little girls for a spa day, well it’s more like the girls will get pampered while the ladies just hang out. What are you going to do this Summer? Anything fun planned?

  • Sandra's Easy Cooking May 31, 2012, 11:01 pm

    Like i told you before I never tried it but now that I am looking at your beautiful photos I want some:))
    I love the easy preparation and your photos are really helpful! Got to try to find eel and cook for my family!:)
    Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend!

  • Alyssa May 31, 2012, 11:14 pm

    I think it’s great that you had such a varied diet at a young age. I had the opposite problem…I knew what an eel looked like before the first time I had it, so I had a hard time eating it. My husband, on the other hand, LOVES eel. My local grocery store usually carries eel, so I will totally be making this for my husband!

  • Reem | Simply Reem June 1, 2012, 12:01 am

    Look at that color…

  • Fern @ To Food with Love June 1, 2012, 12:50 am

    Yum!!! Looks beautiful and so glossy and perfect and delicious…getting hungry already…going to make some for the kids dinner tonight! And buy more to make for tomorrow’s lunch! :)

  • Soni June 1, 2012, 3:02 am

    Hmm I also enjoy Eel in my sushi a lot!This Unagi looks delicous and perfect for this barbecue season!!Love the simple sauce you made.Can I use the sauce as a marinade for other fishes too?

    • Nami June 4, 2012, 9:49 pm

      Hi Soni! We have a dish called Yakitori (skewered chicken) and cook with similar thick and syrupy sauce. However we do not marinade in this kind of sauce. It’s more like dip (or brush) and then grill. :-)

  • Parsley Sage June 1, 2012, 6:09 am

    Nami, Nami, Nami! New favorite. This looks heavenly! Ever since I started diving, I haven’t been able to eat eel because they’re just so cuto in the water! You’re making me drool like a dog in this on though…

  • Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) June 1, 2012, 7:53 am

    I didn’t realize it was this easy to prepare unagi don at home. It’s one of my favorite dishes to order. Their actual shape does sometimes come to mind while I’m eating them, especially when I have a bowl full of thin unagi pieces. It gives me pause but only for a little while because I just love how they taste. Your version is beautiful!

  • Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings June 1, 2012, 8:12 am

    I will be forwarding this to my dad, as this is his favourite Japanese comfort dish! Everytime we go to Japan, he is looking for this! Even in the Philippines, he is always looking for good Japanese chefs who can make it! He will be happy about this recipe!

  • Yelena June 1, 2012, 8:32 am

    I buy unagi all the time. Very exclusive dish-) I am going to make this sauce next time. Thank you for visiting my blog and very nice to meet you!

  • torviewtoronto June 1, 2012, 8:43 am

    looks wonderful congrats on winning the vanilla beans http://torviewtoronto.blogspot.ca/2012/05/mint-ice-cream-and-vanilla-bean.html
    looking forward to hear from you
    lovely presentation looks wonderful Nami

  • Javelin Warrior June 1, 2012, 9:25 am

    I’ve never had eel before and frankly I’m happy to hear that it comes pre-packaged and pre-prepared. The thought of trying to buy fresh eel and prepare it myself sounds more intimidating that scaling a typical fish – which is quite scary to me! This looks delicious and I love the color with the homemade Unagi sauce…mmmm…

    • Javelin Warrior June 14, 2012, 9:17 pm

      Nami, I just wanted to let you know I’m featuring this post in today’s Food Fetish Friday series (with a link-back and attribution). I’m so glad I had an excuse to drop by and admire this eel again…

  • Baltic Maid June 1, 2012, 10:50 am

    I love eel. My uncle and cousins in Germany used to catch them in a lake when I grew up. I think I did catch some myself as well. Eel tastes really good smoked. I’d love to try the Japanese unagi. I’ll keep my eyes open. Beautiful pictures as always :-)

  • Asmita June 1, 2012, 2:39 pm

    Hi Nami,
    This dish looks so delicious! The recipe, photos and presentation are fabulous!

  • Elizabeth @Mango_Queen June 1, 2012, 2:53 pm

    I love unagi and see it often at the Asian grocery. Glad you gave us a recipe for it. This is superb! Thanks for sharing another great Japan tip and your Unadon recipe, Nami! Happy Friday!

  • The Squishy Monster June 1, 2012, 4:09 pm

    Oh my, I LOVE Eel, it happens to be my very favorite fish. YUM!


  • Martyna@WholesomeCook June 1, 2012, 4:17 pm

    It may come as a surprise but we used to eat a LOT of eel in Poland too. Mostly smoked whole, so I knew it was snake-shaped. But in summer we used to visit the lakeside and set up eel traps on the lake then char-grill the pieces of the eels. I can imagine this Japanese version to be similar, and the sauce sounds like a nice addition to the meat.

  • mjskit June 1, 2012, 7:15 pm

    As I mentioned before, I love unagi so thank you very much for showing me how to have it at home!

  • Ryan June 1, 2012, 7:26 pm

    This looks beautiful, Nami! I have only had eel when I’ve had sushi but the way you have it presented with the rice and sauce sounds really good. I will have to try it the next time I find a restaurant that serves it this way! Beautiful post and pictures, as always!!

  • RecipeNewZ June 1, 2012, 7:45 pm


  • sophia June 1, 2012, 8:22 pm

    Yummy!!! I loooooove unagi so much. I think it was one of the first Japanese food item I ate as a child and loved.

  • nipponnin June 1, 2012, 10:58 pm


  • Jenny June 2, 2012, 3:21 am

    Wow that looks just like the restaurant dish, Nami, and just as appetizing. I love the simplicity of Japanese cooking, it seems complicated, and the sauces sound so delicious. I only has eel once, and it was not very successful…but I think it’s time to try it again! We have our Silver Jubilee this weekend for our dear Queen, so it will be a very happy time : )

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella June 2, 2012, 4:53 am

    I was always freaked out by eels when I was young and it was only by mistake that I tried eel when I lived in Japan because I had no idea what it was! I love it though-the richness is divine. Oh and I saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi today, have you seen it? I thought you might be interested in it :)

  • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 2, 2012, 8:58 am

    I absolutely love unagi don, it’s too bad my boyfriend doesn’t like it as much or else I’d be eating it all the time! My local Asian supermarkets actually have the frozen unagi which comes with sauce already, but I love your recipe. I think I will make the sauce next time instead of using the packaged ones! Your photos are making me so hungry…

  • Kristy June 2, 2012, 10:06 am

    I am absolutely shocked at how easy this is to prepare. I love eel. It’s easily one of my favorite fish. I eat it in my sushi all the time. I know we bought some vacuum packed eel for sushi before, so I’m going to track some down for dinner this week. This looks too good not to make. :)

  • Ashley - BakerbyNature June 2, 2012, 2:17 pm

    I adore your adventuress recipes! We’re basically barbarians (eating wise) in my little home, so this would right up my alley!

  • Tanvi@SinfullySpicy June 2, 2012, 2:26 pm

    LOL ..about the barbaric eaters :) You are a funny girl! When I saw salmon & halibut for the first time I had similar feelings. In India we eat small fishes usually – mackerel or carp. I absolutely love the shiny glaze on the eel Nami..my mind is full of ideas on how to use it over salmon or mahi mahi.
    I love that gold print bowl that you have..beautiful dish collection you have! I always observe the pretty chopstick rests you use as per the color theme of the picture.
    Hope you are having a fun weekend..take care!

  • Kristen June 2, 2012, 3:06 pm

    That meal is so beautiful. I am so impressed with how closely it resembles a restaurant meal.

  • Hotly Spiced June 2, 2012, 9:37 pm

    I think the eel with a sweet and salty sauce would be delicious. I have no problem with people eating eel (my father loves it and he organised for eel to be one of the entrees at my wedding) but it’s seeming them live in buckets at Asian outdoor markets that’s a bit off-putting. But vacum-packed is completely different. Beautiful presentation Nami xx

  • Debra Kapellakis June 2, 2012, 10:07 pm

    I enjoyed reading and viewing here today VERY much. thank you

  • Carolyn Jung June 2, 2012, 11:01 pm

    One of my fave Japanese delicacies. I just love the texture of eel and the addicting sauce that goes with it. I try to eat less of it now, though, after finding out it’s not a sustainable species. Sigh. Hopefully, it will be again one day.

  • Yi @ Yi Resevation June 3, 2012, 8:53 am

    Unagi is definitely one of my favorite fish dishes served at Japanese restaurants. It’s funny that there are a lot people I know do not quite appreciate the taste of unagi.
    I also like to buy the pre-packaged the unagi and make my own rice bowl. The difference is that I use the store-bought sauce instead. The sauce recipe looks fantastic and I guess I’ll never need to buy the sauce again. Thanks for sharing!

  • Shu Han June 3, 2012, 10:01 am

    nami! how did you know I was just wondering about making unagi! Eel is harder to come by, but I’m sure this unagi sauce would be just as delicious on other fish. SOunds like a great mariande for the grill, will be adding this to my list of bbq marinades hehe, been blogging about bbq ribs and already am starting to plan for the next one ;)

  • Adora's Box June 3, 2012, 10:38 am

    This is one of my favourite Japanese dishes, Nami. I am not squeamish about eating eel at all. It tastes just like fish to me_fish with ultra yummy sauce. I am so glad to know that I don’t need to buy a live eel to make unagi don.

  • Katerina June 3, 2012, 10:42 am

    We have eels in Greece but I haven’t tried one yet! I always learn more about Japanese cooking when I visit your blog Nami! This looks delicious!

  • A Little Yumminess June 3, 2012, 3:33 pm

    I remember being surprised as well when I say the fish….so much more beautiful when cooked :)

  • Valerie Brunmeier June 3, 2012, 6:46 pm

    I know I would go crazy for this Nami! I love to order chicken teri don at a little Japanese place near us but I think I’d like it with unagi even more!

  • Kelly @ Inspired Edibles June 3, 2012, 7:09 pm

    Ah, Nami… I don’t eat eel but you know if I did, I would come directly to your house :). Loved reading this post – always so educational and your photos are simply luminous. Wonderful.

  • Daisy@Nevertoosweet June 3, 2012, 10:31 pm

    I was hoping you’d post this recipe soon Nami :) it looks so lovely! Mr Bao and I love Unagi don hehe and i’m so glad that we can buy it here in Melbourne so that means I can try this recipe woo hoo!

    Thank you like always for sharing such a fantastic recipe with us! hope you’ve had a good week!

  • amy @ uTryIt June 3, 2012, 11:37 pm

    Yeah, I have to agree the look of an eel (live one) is pretty…scary? But I’m thankful that it didn’t stop me from eating unagi either, hahaha…I’ve always buy the sauce in bottles! Didn’t know it’s so easily made. I guess I’ll have to try it out and stop buying those expensive bottled sauce! hm…it sounds really good on grilled rice ball as well. :P

  • Lilly June 3, 2012, 11:47 pm

    I’ve never been a big fan of eel, but maybe I just haven’t eaten the right one yet. You make it look so easy to make a good eel dish! As always the pictures are mouth watering.

  • Raymund June 4, 2012, 1:58 am

    I haven’t had eel for sometime now, looks like I will sneak tomorrow at the local park nearby our place and grab some fresh ones :) I don’t know where to buy those here.
    This post certainly gave me some cravings

  • Claudia June 4, 2012, 8:18 am

    And I thought only Italians ate eel. I must say this looks a bit more appetizing than the Italian ones. And so many types! Grand posting, Nami – it does look delicious.

  • kitchenriffs June 4, 2012, 9:54 am

    Gorgeous, gorgeous photos. Interesting to hear that when you first saw an eel, you were wondering how it was possible that you liked eating it! I have to admit the thought of eating eel leaves me somewhat squeamish. I’m a wimp, I know, and one of these days I should get over it. Actually, your recipe may be nudging me in that direction – it looks enticingly delicious. Fascinating post – thanks.

  • Nancy/SpicieFoodie June 4, 2012, 11:03 am

    A long time ago I tried Unagi for the first time but I didn’t like. It was only a few months ago that my husband had me try it again. Now I love it and think it tastes great. Thanks for sharing the recipe, my mouth is watering.

  • Jon R. June 4, 2012, 2:00 pm

    Hi Nami, this is the first time I have commented on your blog, and I just want to say that your photos are amazing. Especially, the photos of the unagi on the grill during your recent trip to Japan. Unagi Don is my favorite dish!! Nice post!

    Jon R.

  • Lori Lynn June 5, 2012, 9:08 am

    I cannot wait to make this! Didn’t realize it was available frozen. Next time (which is often) I’m at the Japanese market I will certainly pick one up. Thank you Nami!

  • Magic of Spice June 6, 2012, 12:13 pm

    You are too funny…”barbaric eaters”, I can not stop laughing :) This is such a beautifully prepared dish, lovely!

  • Holly June 6, 2012, 5:10 pm

    I love unagi rice bowl. I grow up eating lots of eel prepared in Korean way, fresh eel grilled with spicy sauce on top. Simply the best! I only wish I can find fresh the eel (cleaned though). You explanation on how to enjoy vacuum packed eel is great. Very helpful. I am going to look for Unagi next time I go to Isetan store here in KL.

  • Lee June 11, 2012, 9:52 am

    I will have to try this recipe! The steps seem pretty easy, and it looks delicious! Thank you!

  • Kit June 16, 2012, 1:33 pm

    How I miss good unagi. Will definitely try to find an op to try your sauce recipe. Probably a good time to use the sake I’ve been keeping around. Love how simple you make these yummy recipes.

  • amelia from z tasty life July 10, 2012, 11:01 pm

    Nami: I love unagi…and I am so glad I discovered your blog (I just subscribed via email), because I am a big fan of simple Japanese cooking. You make it look so accessible, which is so exciting for me.

  • thor October 16, 2012, 9:40 am

    i love unagi and this looks very tasty and is it like poultry were you have to cook it??
    and is there any substations for the saki and mirim?? I’m in a school so i kinda cant get an alcoholic drink on center.

    • Nami October 16, 2012, 10:19 am

      Hi Thor! The frozen pack unagi is already pre-cooked, so you just need to broil it until it’s thoroughly heated. Most of available unagi is already charcoal grilled and not raw because we need that charcoal flavor and cannot be done easily at home.

      Regarding sake and mirin, I think majority of alcohol is being evaporated while cooking. The Japanese cook with sake and mirin for majority of Japanese food, and it’s okay for small kids. You just need to cook long enough to evaporate alcohol content. However, you can omit, but the result won’t be the same. You must replace mirin with sugar as mirin adds sweetness. I hope this helps. :)

  • Kate December 10, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Eel is one of my favorites. I would love to try this!

    • Nami December 16, 2012, 1:02 am

      Thanks Kate! I hope you will enjoy it! :)

  • Karina December 12, 2012, 4:01 pm

    Hi Nami,
    I live in Canada and we hardly ever get to buy eel around here. If it is available, it is allways smoked.
    People think I am barbaric for eating and enjoying) ‘snake fish’…
    Well, I grew up in northern Germany and we ate a lot of eel. My mother usually got them alive from local anglers. She used to put them into the bathtub to get rid of some of the muddy taste (they live and feed on the bottom of streams – and, therefore, are not the most healthy choice of fresh water fish).
    If you are sqeamish, please do not read any further.
    Well, then she would numb them and cut off the head, clean them and pan fry them. Much like a chickenl that runs around after the head came off, the pieces of eel would sometimes jump out of the pan – it is just an electric reaction. As a kid, I never really wondered why this was happening – otherwise I would never have eaten eel.
    I love unagi! I think the sweetness goes very well with the richness of the eel.

    I you are interested in traditional eel recipes from northern Germany/Denmark let me know.
    Best and thanks for sharing all the good stuff!

    • Nami December 16, 2012, 1:06 am

      Hi Karina! Thank you so much for your feedback. I heard before that some European countries enjoy eel and that made me happy, especially living here I’m not getting positive response all the time. :) I enjoyed reading the story about your mom and eel. Very interesting. Growing up in Japan, eels are usually packaged already and sold in supermarket, so as a kid, I never knew what eels would look like. By the time I learned it, I enjoyed the taste so much it didn’t bother me much. :) Thank you for sharing your story!

  • rueben dela cruz January 10, 2013, 2:05 am

    Unagidon are one of my favorite food in Japan,it’s sooo yummy! …delicious!!!

    • Nami January 11, 2013, 10:49 am

      Thank you Rueben! Hope you can make it at home too! :)

  • ken fujiwara April 22, 2013, 1:23 am

    thank you so much! :)
    this is one of my favorite sauces :D

    • Nami April 22, 2013, 11:39 am

      Hi Ken! Thank you so much for your kind feedback! :)

  • Sal May 30, 2013, 2:55 pm

    This looks delicious! I must try this

    How different would it be if I used a frying pan instead?

    • Nami May 30, 2013, 3:06 pm

      Hi Sal! You can use a frying pan. Hope you enjoy it! :)

  • Christina Kataoka October 15, 2013, 10:41 am

    I don’t eat meat but my husband would love this!! Thanks for all your wonderful recipes.

    • Nami October 15, 2013, 9:08 pm

      You’re welcome Christina! :)

  • minnie@thelady8home October 15, 2013, 10:42 am

    I have seen eel in my local grocery store, I am sure of it! I am so excited!!! Nami, can I buy sake at any liquor store? Or do I have to go to a Japanese store?

    • Nami October 15, 2013, 9:11 pm

      Asian stores (at least ones around my house) carry it too. You can get it around $6-10, which is decent for cooking (it’s for drinking but I only use for cooking for this price range.). Hope that helps! :)

  • Siyun October 18, 2013, 8:50 am

    Hi Nami,

    Can you advise how should I reheat the frozen unagi using a pan? I don’t have oven or toaster in my tiny studio in NYC :( Thanks!

    • Nami October 18, 2013, 11:13 am

      Hi Siyun!

      You can use a frying pan too! :)

      1) In a non-stick frying pan, heat oil on medium to medium high.
      2) Put the unagi and add 2 Tbsp. water and 2 Tbsp. sake. Immediately cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes until unagi is heated through.
      3) Open the lid and let the remaining liquid evaporated.
      4) Add the Unagi Sauce.

      Hope that helps! :)

      • siyun October 18, 2013, 11:29 am

        Thanks for the quick response! I can make this for my dinner party for 6 tomorrow!!

        One last question. Do your thaw the fish in the fridge before cooking or just directly reheat the fish from out of package while it is still frozen?


        • Nami October 18, 2013, 11:40 am

          No problem! Thaw the unagi in the fridge overnight. Enjoy the party tomorrow! :)

          • Siyun October 19, 2013, 7:05 pm

            Thank you so much for all the recipes shared here! In addition to the unagi, I also make the soba salad, the quick and easy tamago and the spicy tuna salad! And my friends love them all!

            • Nami October 21, 2013, 9:49 pm

              Hi Siyun! Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m so happy to hear your dinner party was very successful! It’s such a great feeling when your friends (and family) enjoy food you cook. :) Thanks for stopping by again to write feedback. xoxo :)

  • vianice Ng October 19, 2013, 5:07 am

    Hi Nami, I am super unagi fans! Can you advise what is the degree I should use to broil the unagi?

    • Nami October 21, 2013, 9:35 pm

      Hi Vianice! Here it’s not common to have temperature for “broil” option, but found this online. I use boil “high”.

      Broiling: low 400, medium 450, high 500

      Hope that helps!

  • Monika October 31, 2013, 8:59 am

    It was my husband’s favourite dish during our last trip to Japan. We had it in a small restaurant at Ameyoko. It was soo delicious. I’m so happy I’ve found the recipe here. I’ll make a surprise dinner for my husband . I just hope they have this pre – grilled unagi in the market in Japan Town. My husband will be so happy. Thank you, Nami! :)

    • Nami November 4, 2013, 10:00 pm

      Hi Monika! Unagi’s quality is ALWAYS better in Japan, but hope you can find some decent ones (esp in Japan Town). Unagi are very expensive these days (even in Japan), so it might be costly. :( Hope you two enjoy this dish. :)

  • Pam February 20, 2014, 9:02 am

    Just found your website and am excited to try your recipes! I’m a southern girl who’s comfort food should be fried chicken & collard greens but instead it’s sushi! Unagi is my favorite, so I’m excited to learn to make it at home. I have a couple of questions….what kind of rice do you use for this bowl? Sushi rice or steamed rice?….For this novice do you have any other dishes or suggestions on ways to uses the unagi sauce? Other cuts of meat it might work well with? I have a husband & 4 teenage boys so buying sushi grade fish isnt in the budget & my husband is diabetic but I would love to integrate some Japanese flavors into my everyday “American” cooking…..I have the same obsession with fish sauce:-)…Thanks! Can’t wait to get started!

    • Nami February 22, 2014, 5:38 pm

      Hi Pam! So happy to hear you like Japanese food! :)

      In Japanese cooking, we use (Japanese) short grain rice. It’s different texture and shape from long grain rice (Chinese rice). Short grain rice is sometimes packaged and written as “Sushi Rice” in the US (or outside of Japan), but for Japanese “sushi rice” means vinegared (seasoned) rice that we use for making sushi (recipe: http://justonecookbook.com/how-to/how-to-make-sushi-rice/). Steamed rice in my recipe means cooked/steamed short grain rice.

      For Unagi sauce, sure you can use for other recipes including other kinds of fish and meat.

      Hope you enjoy! :)

  • Hanaconda April 10, 2014, 8:46 am

    That looks delicious, and I really wish I could enjoy it. The problem is that like Our European eels the Japanese eel is endangered now. The FAO calls the Japanese eel fisheries “unsustainable” and this will be true until sustainable hatchery techniques are developed.
    I don’t know about other species, but European eels are considered unfarmable because we know little about how they breed. I really hope we can learn more about eels, not only to protect the species themselves, but to protect recipes like this one.
    It wasn’t until the 50’s that we understood the lifecycle of the seaweed that nori is made out of enough to cultivate it efficiently, so maybe there is hope for eels too.

    • Nami April 10, 2014, 8:59 pm

      Thank you so much for your information, Hanaconda! :)

  • Damie May 14, 2014, 2:15 pm

    What a thrill for me to see this recipe today! Unagi might be one of my all-time favorites, but I have never made it at home! You’ve inspired me…hopefully I can find some the next time I travel to the next town.

    • Nami May 14, 2014, 8:42 pm

      Hi Damie! I’m glad you caught this old recipe (but delicious!) of mine. :D Finding good quality unagi has been very difficult (and expensive) but hope you get to enjoy this dish sometimes. Try Japanese, Korean, and Chinese (Asian) grocery stores to see if they have it. Sometimes (or always, depending on a store) in frozen section. :)

  • T.J. May 28, 2014, 9:23 pm

    Just made this tonight, with squid and prawns on the side and it was amazing. Thank you so much for posting this because you really made this easy to prepare. I grew up eating this, however when my family moved to North Carolina eel was no longer readily available, well now that I am living on my own, and in a mainly Japanese and Korean part of my city I have an Asian grocery store just a few km away and I am trying to learn to cook the foods I grew up eating. Thank you for helping to make that possible.

    • Nami May 29, 2014, 1:17 am

      Hi T.J.! Thank you so much for your kind feedback! I’m so glad you gave this recipe a try and enjoyed it. I hope you find some recipes/foods that you grew up eating on my blog. Thank YOU for following my blog. Feel free to ask me if you have any question. Happy cooking!

  • Caroline Jusak July 16, 2014, 4:02 am

    Hi Nami, just made this Unadon for dinner tonight. It was so scrumptious especially with the special made sauce. When we eat Japanese food, I always wonder how to make this special sauce. Now I know how…thank you so much, You’re a great Chef!!

    • Nami July 16, 2014, 9:38 am

      Hi Caroline! I’m so happy to hear that you liked this recipe/sauce! I make this sauce all the time and it’s pretty simple yet amazing flavor. :) Thank you for your kind words, but I’m just a stay at home mom. :D

  • Elaine Fukumoto August 25, 2014, 3:08 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed unagi donburi since I was a child. There was a time when my mother would put unagi in the futomaki she would make.

    Suggestion of to how to serve unagi donburi that I learned from my mother: Top the unagi that’s on top of the gohan with chopped green onions and grated lemon zest. Another suggestion that I learned from a restaurant here in Little Tokyo (LA) … add slices of avocado.

    Sadly, unagi has gotten really expensive recently.

    • Nami August 25, 2014, 9:49 pm

      Hi Elaine! Thank you so much for sharing some wonderful tips! Domestic unagi (in Japan) has been very hard to get, so the price at Unagi restaurants has gone up quite a lot. $40-50 is very typical these days. :(

  • ellie | fit for the soul August 27, 2014, 5:52 pm

    I looooove unagi!!!! Pretty much anything Japanese, and I just made (adapted) your eel sauce recipe for some bento wannabe bites I just made. So delish~ ^_^ Also, I’m Korean and if you guys are barbaric eaters then we’re the king of them allllll haha.

    • Nami August 29, 2014, 9:22 am

      Hi Ellie! Haha thanks for your kind comment. And thank you so much for trying my recipe out! I had hard time leaving a comment on your blog yesterday (there was no option for me to sign in so it becomes “synonymous”). I’m sorry I couldn’t leave a comment. I shared your link on my facebook page though. Hope that was okay. :)

      • ellie | fit for the soul August 29, 2014, 10:47 am

        Aww I’m so honored you stopped by and (tried to) commented! I’m so sorry about the issue there, not sure what’s going on. :/ If you don’t mind me asking–how did the comment system show up when you tried to submit? It usually shows about 4 or 5 options like “guest, member, google+”, etc. And I’m loving your website~so useful especially since my Japanese food cravings are growing stronger… ;)

        • Nami August 29, 2014, 11:03 am

          I just tested it again and I saw the popup this time! I’m not sure why it didn’t appear yesterday. Thank you for your kind comment! Happy Friday! xo

  • EstherT November 17, 2014, 1:57 am

    Can I grill the unagi instead of broiling it in an oven? Thanks.

    • Nami November 17, 2014, 2:06 am

      Yes you can. :) Hope you enjoy this dish!

  • Joey February 26, 2015, 3:56 pm

    Hi Nami,

    Thanks for all great recipes.

    Just 1 quick question, I’m gonna make a big portion, but the original recipe in your note (small print):

    “My original recipe: ¾ cup soy sauce, ¾ cup mirin, ½ cup (4.4oz/125g) sugar, ¼ cup sake.”

    seems they are not in proportion, could you please kindly clarify? Thanks again.

    • Nami February 26, 2015, 4:43 pm

      Hi Joey! The recipe is correct. Please note that the recipe uses “Tbsp.” for sugar and sake, but my original recipe uses “cup” for sugar and sake. 1/2 cup = 8 Tbsp and 1/4 cup is 4 Tbsp.

      • Joey February 27, 2015, 4:43 pm

        Oh my bad ! I overlooked it, arigatou Nami !

        • Nami February 27, 2015, 4:55 pm

          No problem! I really love this sauce, and I hope you like it too! :)