Eggs are clearly not just for breakfast in Japan. Or is it that eel is an acceptable breakfast food? Either way, the combination of eel and egg makes for a satisfying meal at any time of day — though you are most likely not going to have it for breakfast after all.
When we talk about egg and eel, we are talking about “umaki,” and we are not just talking about haphazardly throwing eggs together with some sort of eel. The eel is unagi, which is a fresh water eel. Though it would most likely not be sacrilege to use anago, or sea eel, convention has it that fresh water eel is a better match. The eel is cooked up “kabayaki” style, which can be summed up as a deboning, butterflying, saucing, and grilling. This leaves the eel with a nice, meaty texture, and a mildly sweet taste.
The egg part of umaki is not scrambled egg, but more of an omelet, like tamago-yaki. Depending on your (or your chef’s) taste, the egg mix may have a bit of sweetness to it, but regardless it will have almost certainly have a touch of konbu (seaweed) infused soup stock. There’s really quite a lot of flexibility around what is added to the egg, but whatever does get added should never be overpowering, and should always be kept simple.
You’ve got your eel, and you’ve got your egg mix, so you’re ready to make the umaki. A special pan is used (natch), rectangular and very omelet-supportive. The egg is folded unto itself, with a generous piece of kabayaki eel fillet placed in the center. The eel is of course already cooked, and the eggs should only be just barely cooking through.
Egg-n-eel wrap at the ready, there’s nothing left to do but eat it! A little grated daikon (oroshi) on top and perhaps a bit of soy sauce, and away you go — anytime of day you want.
Looking to try umaki in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.