Monday, August 11, 2008

No wonder I'm feeling the heat - I forgot to eat eel!

This year, I missed the Japanese national eel eating day, doyo ushinohi うなぎ土用丑の日. Every year, in the middle of summer, there is a traditional day to eat eel. It is believed to help people who suffer from summer fatigue. This year, doyo ushinohi fell on July 24th.

It's interesting how this tradition came about. An owner of an eel restaurant was complaining to his doctor friend about slow business. The friend suggested that he tell people that eating eel in summer helps you fight the heat. The marketing ploy worked and so the tradition was born.

Eel is one of my favourite Japanese dishes. The city I first lived in when I came to Japan is quite famous for their delicious eel and there it is cooked a little differently I'm told (it seems a little crunchier than other places). The small city has something like seven eel restaurants, and that's all they serve - eel on rice, the same dish but in different sizes.

The dish of eel comes with pickles and a clear soup called o-suimono. This soup is also one of my favourites, lovely and refreshing in summer. One time I was drinking the soup at the eel restaurant and found a mushroom at the bottom. Being a lover of mushrooms, I snatched it up and started chewing. "Mmm... that's a funny tasting mushroom" I remarked to my friend. She laughed and refused to tell me why until I'd finished eating it. It was actually eel liver.

So I missed the official eel eating day this year, but I think this week, I'm going to have to get me some.


Photo by Conveyor Belt Sushi

9 comments:

Fuji Mama said...

No wonder I like you so much! Una-don is one of my all-time favorite meals. Mmmmm...

lina said...

I love Unadon too! Got to go eat some. :-)

Semsavblanc said...

Oh, this is one of my all time favourites too!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I really need to remind myself to eat it more often. It's going to be a lot harder to get once I move back to Australia!

Chris (i-cjw.com) said...

Did you know there were actually 2 doyo ushinohi's this year, July 24th and Aug 5th? The doyo is the 18 day period between seasons, and each day is assigned a symbol based upon the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac - so in any given year, there may one or two days during the summer doyo which have the symbol for Ox (ushi).

Tradition has it that you should eat foods beginning with "u" on ushi-no-hi, so unagi, umeboshi, udon, Uncle Ben's... This is the tradition which that original eel restuarant owner capitalized so cleverly upon. Smart marketing.

I love una-ju. I love it even more when it's a 2 doyo ushinohi year!

fantasybaseballmacbookpro said...

Chris - Uncle Ben's...haha

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Hey Chris - thanks for all that! So that means that I missed not one, but two eel eating days! Love that Uncle Ben's is included in the tradition :)

Hey fantasy... - yep, I'm laughing along with you on that one!

Mike said...

God I love eel. I can't believe I missed Eel eating day!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Yeh Mike, me neither. Oh well, I'll have to make up for it soon :)