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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

MY BEST UNAGI MEAL, EVER

Unagi is not umami, which is the fifth basic taste:  sweet, sour, bitter, salty, plus savory.  I'll someday post on this sense.
Unagi is an endangered freshwater eel from Japan, Anguilla japonica, although similar varieties are now imported from countries like Taiwan, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, and, amazingly enough, the USA.  Sometimes this specie is called the Daiwa glass eel.  Anago is a similar type eel, but grows in the ocean, larger and not as oily.

The home of unagi is Lake Hamanako in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka, Japan.  The lake became salty in 1498 after an earthquake, but the first unagi farm was not established until 1891. While the eel is threatened, capture limits have been established, so the price has gone up.

Interestingly enough, this dish is mostly consumed during the summer because this eel contains high amounts of vitamin B1, which you lose from sweating.  The peak of consumption is the Midsummer Day of the Ox, which usually occurs the final week of July, this year, the 30.

Unagi kabayaki: de-boned, butterflied, grilled with a sweetened soy sauce (usually equal parts shoyu and mirin, with added sake and sugar) and served over rice.  I grew up with the canned version, but the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species might have curtailed the importation of this product.  On the other hand, I haven't tried to purchase this canned version for twenty years.
In any case, the above is all background to my latest dining adventure.  I caught The Bus into Waikiki, with an intention to have lunch, then, and this will be my posting for Thursday, walking home through my home village of Kakaako where I grew up.  Well, my remembrance is a few days after 1927, but these details remained during the first 16 years of my life.

There are two new cuisine venues in Waikiki.  Just about fully operational now is the International Marketplace, where 15 Craigside has an outing this coming Saturday.

Today, I ventured into a recently opened Waikiki Yokocho, somewhat similar to the Shirokiya Japanese Village Walk at the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

The basement of the Waikiki Plaza is not yet all open and there is not much yet of any walking public:


I decided to try Beniya:


For the uninitiated, washoku means Japanese food.  I decided to splurge with both sake and beer to accompany their specialty, unagi on rice:


No, that is not a wet towel on top of the eel to wipe your hands.  That's tamagoyaki, a simple rolled omelet.  While the above meal did cost $65, I've had a $60 Japanese breakfast in the past, and the unagi here was the best I've ever experienced.  This is the only Beniya in the world.

I then walked home from Waikiki, which will be posted on Thursday.  Tomorrow?  PEARL'S ASHES, Chapter 3.

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