Unagi Don (Unadon) 鰻丼

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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 10 minutes, or until thicken. 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.

Reduce the sauce for 20 minutes, or until thicken (instead of 10 mins as written above).

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

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  1. 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! :)

    • 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!!!

  4. 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!

  5. 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 :)

  6. starmonkey3

    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!

  7. May S

    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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!!

  12. Eha

    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.

  13. Ira Rodrigues

    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

  14. 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 😛 Don’t know if I’m brave enough to make it on my own but that Unagi sauce sounds amazing!

  15. 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! :)

  16. Catalina @ Cake with Love

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

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. Ꮮуռ (ᶬˠ ᶩᶤᵗᵗᶥᵋ ᵐᵋˢˢᵞ ᴻ ᶜʱᵋᵋᵏᵞ)

    Hi Nami! How are you? Hope you’re as great! 😀
    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! 😉

  21. Candice

    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. =)



    • 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. :-)

  22. Kimmi

    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!

  23. 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!!

  24. 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.


  25. 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

  26. donna mikasa

    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!

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. 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 ~

  30. 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!

  31. 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 :).

  32. 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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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?

  35. 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!

  36. 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!

  37. 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?

    • 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. :-)

  38. 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…

  39. 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!

  40. 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!

  41. 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…

    • 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…

  42. 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 :-)

  43. 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.

  44. 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!!

  45. 美味しそうな匂いが伝わってくる感じがします。お料理上手な奥さんと結婚して、ご主人は幸せですよね。最近多忙で、手抜き主婦、はたまたずぼら主婦になっています。これを見たらちょっと反省。

  46. 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 : )

  47. 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 :)

  48. 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…

  49. 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. :)

  50. Ashley - BakerbyNature

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

  51. 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!

  52. 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

  53. 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.

  54. 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!

  55. 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 😉

  56. 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.

  57. 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!

  58. 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!

  59. 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. 😛

  60. 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.

  61. 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

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. Jon R.

    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.

  66. 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!

  67. 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.

  68. Kit

    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.

  69. thor

    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.

    • 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. :)

  70. Karina

    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!

    • 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!

    • 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! :)

  71. Siyun

    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!

    • 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

        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?


          • Siyun

            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!

            • 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 :)

    • 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!

  72. 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! :)

    • 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. :)

  73. Pam

    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!

    • 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://www.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! :)

  74. Hanaconda

    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.

  75. Damie

    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.

    • Hi Damie! I’m glad you caught this old recipe (but delicious!) of mine. 😀 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. :)

  76. T.J.

    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.

    • 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!

  77. Caroline Jusak

    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!!

    • 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. 😀

  78. Elaine Fukumoto

    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.

    • 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. :(

  79. 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.

    • 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. :)

      • 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… 😉

        • 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

  80. Joey

    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.

  81. Lacey

    Do you still need to simmer the sauce for 20 minutes with your adjusted (smaller) recipe? Seems like a long time.

  82. Karin

    We made the sauce, lacqueredand grilled our unagi and grilled until it was chestnut dark and salty sweet.
    Thank you for the recipe.

  83. こんばんはなみさん~ 今日なみさんのうなぎの料理ほうを作りました。 とてもおいしいよ~ However, I put the storebought sauce for half the filet and the other half your sauce recipe, 僕は二か月前にはじめて料理をならう so I don’t have much confidence in my cooking ability yet。 (ところで、今年の十二月に日本語能力試験があるんから、日本語をれんしゅうしたほうがいいです、in case you were wondering why this comment is half English, half Japanese ^@__@^ しつれいしました) だから、なみさんのソースのほうがスーパーのソースよりおいしいですよ, to the point where after eating the half with your sauce on it the other filet became inedible haha ^^;; とにかく、この料理ほうはどうもありがとうございます。 子供の時、よく日本料理を食べましたでも今マイアミにすんでいます。 ここで少ない日本レストランがありませんから、なみさんのblogはかんしゃしているよ。 ^^

    • Hi Z! Hahaha! Thank you for comparing my sauce with the store-bought sauce! I’m happy to hear you liked my sauce better! 😀


  84. Jonathan

    Wonderful easy recipe! Made for a quick and delicious lunch. I did have a couple of questions about it.

    The frozen eel I got had a whole lot of soy sauce/corn syrup/other stuff mixture on it, so I blotted most of it off with a paper towel before broiling. Would you recommend doing anything different with the eel?

    I love how easy this dish is, but eel is a bit expensive, so I was wondering if there was any other kind of protein that would work well for this. I thought of tilapia, or some other fish. The only problem is that I’m not sure what the best way to cook it would be. The precooked eel is definitely the easiest I can think of.

    Great recipe, and a rainy day food too! For some reason, eel just puts me right to sleep.

    • Thank you Jonathan! I usually buy unagi that is from Japan (not vacuumed sealed) and it doesn’t have too much sauce on it. You can use a pastry brush to brush off excess sauce on top.

      Unagi sauce works great with other meat like chicken and fish, but it’s thick sauce, so I’d recommend to put the sauce after being cooked/bbqed/broiled. Otherwise the sauce will easily burn. You can’t really marinate in this sauce, so it’s more like additional sauce you put it. While grilling, you can brush the sauce, for example. Hope this helps… :)

  85. hfriday

    Hi Nami,

    One of my favorite Japanese meals is Unadon! Japan is a little too far for me to reach so whenever I travel, I look for the most traditional Japanese restaurant and order the Unadon!

    Unfortunately where I live, we don’t have a Japanese market or restaurant unless it’s sushi. I know it’s sacrilege but if I want to substitute the eel for another fish, would you recommend something? I love the sauce with the rice and I know it won’t be as good but I really want to make this so any tips would be great!

    Thank you :)