Hearty and savory rice bowl with unagi (eel) and eggplant! A really great rice bowl that won’t disappoint, this Eggplant Unagi Donburi is also easy to make and packed with amazing flavors.
Rice bowls are lifesavers for everyday dinner, be it a hectic weeknight or lazy Friday night. Today’s rice bowl – Eggplant Unagi Donburi (茄子と鰻の丼ぶり) is a little luxurious yet simple enough to pull it together when you need dinner fast on the table. The sweet meat of unagi, tender eggplant, fluffy steamed rice, and the most tantalizing sauce all in one bowl. You’d be in for a treat!
Economical Way to Enjoy Unagi
If you are like us who enjoy eating unagi, you have probably noticed that the price of eels has been skyrocketed in recent years. It used to be a relatively inexpensive ingredient, but now it has become a highly prized food. With today’s recipe, you cut down on the serving of unagi yet you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
I use 2 tricks:
- Use eggplant to bulk it up
- Use delicious unagi sauce to coat everything ♥
Why eggplant, you may ask? Well, eggplant has a meaty and tender texture once it is cooked, and best of all is its ability to soak up the delicious sauce like a sponge. Not a fan of eggplant? You can use another meaty ingredient like portobello mushrooms. But do give eggplant a try first. You’d be surprised how complementary eggplants are with unagi.
And here comes my second trick. When you smother everything in the delicious homemade unagi sauce… and everything tastes just like unagi!! The sauce is so utterly good that it evokes the flavor of the entire dish, don’t you think? Mr. JOC and my kids who are not so fond of eggplant devour the rice bowl like they had not eaten for days.
Quick Meal in 15 Minutes!
I usually keep one package of Unagi in the freezer in case I need to make a quick dinner. This Eggplant and Unagi Donburi recipe requires just one frying pan. If you want to serve this dish over rice, then you will need to make rice using a rice cooker or pot over the stove or instant pot separately. If you’re well-prepared, a couple of containers of steamed rice may be stocked in the freezer (the best way to store leftover rice!).
Once the rice is taken care of, you just need to quickly stir fry the eggplant and steam unagi, and a satisfying dinner will be ready in less than 30 minutes!
Homemade Unagi Sauce
Did you know it’s super easy to make Homemade Unagi Sauce? It’s one of the condiments that I like to make when I have time in the kitchen and store in the refrigerator for easy access. All you need is 4 ingredients: soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar!
The Final Touch – Shiso Leaves
As the final touch, I used shiso (perilla leaves) to garnish the rice bowl as it not only adds a pop of color, but it also provides a refreshing taste to the dish. A common herb used in Japanese cooking, shiso goes well with the milder flavor of eggplant. I often use both together in recipes, so check out this delicious ginger pork rolls and this eggplant side/appetizer).
It’s optional, but if you can source green shiso from your local Japanese grocery stores or farmers market, get them for this Eggplant & Unagi Rice Bowl!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Eggplant Unagi Donburi
- Before You Start: Gather all the ingredients. For the steamed rice, please note that 1½ cups (300 g, 2 rice cooker cups) of uncooked Japanese short-grain rice yield 4⅓ cups (660 g) of cooked rice, enough for 2 donburi servings (3⅓ cups, 500 g). See how to cook short-grain rice with a rice cooker, pot over the stove, Instant Pot, or donabe.
- Cut 1 Japanese or Chinese eggplant into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces widthwise.
- Then, cut each piece in half lengthwise. Finally cut the halves into 2–3 sticks. Soak in water to remove the bitterness.
- Roll up 5 shiso leaves (perilla/ooba) and cut them into chiffonade strips.
- Cut 1 fillet unagi (freshwater eel) fillet into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces.
- In a nonstick frying pan, heat 1½ Tbsp neutral oil on medium high and add the eggplant.
- Cook the eggplant pieces until they turn brown.
- Add the unagi to the pan. Then, add 2 Tbsp water and 2 Tbsp sake.
- Immediately cover with a lid and cook for 1 minute. Open the lid and let the remaining liquid evaporate.
- Add 3 Tbsp unagi (eel) sauce to the pan, pouring it directly onto the eggplant and unagi to coat.
- Using a spoon, coat the eggplant and unagi well with the sauce. Divide and add 2 servings cooked Japanese short-grain rice into individual donburi serving bowls and transfer the eggplant and unagi over the rice.
- Garnish with the shiso leaves. If you‘d like to add a spicy kick, sprinkle with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) and Japanese sansho pepper. Serve immediately.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for a month.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 5, 2011. New images and step by step images have been added to the post in May 2019.