Unagi Day – or Day of the Ox – is a Japanese tradition concocted by the eel fishing industry way back in the day. There is now an eel shortage in the world – especially in Japan – where at least 75% of the eel from Asian countries in the area is eaten.
China and other countries might have more than enough to satisfy the Japanese habit, but to protect their markets the price of eel in Japan is ten times what it was a decade ago. Then again, eels are on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species.
Eel (Anguilla japonica) has also been added to the government of Japan’s red list of endangered species. Besides the “whole net” policy that some chefs and restaurants are adopting – an agreement where buyers will take anything caught in a net by the fishermen – catfish are a great, sustainable substitute for unagi.
NHK World has bee running a sustainable fish story for almost a week now – and it’s great. Here is a link to their Eel symposium
At one point there were an estimated 3,000 eel restaurants just in Tokyo, Japan. Eels are really a traditional Japanese dish and they are indeed quite tasty. But catfish are also a sustainable and tasty fish Not many restaurants can afford at this point to even buy the eels.
There are lots of recipes for alternative fish to use all over the internet. Pretty certain you should probably stay away from farm raised freshwater eel that is not the same thing as an eel raised in captivity. From the wikipedia entry on unagi:
Instead, young eels are collected from the wild and then raised in various enclosures. In addition to wild eel populations being reduced by this process, eels are often farmed in open net pens which allow parasites, waste products, and diseases to flow directly back into wild eel habitat, further threatening wild populations. Freshwater eels are carnivores and as such are fed other wild-caught fish, adding another element of unsustainability to current eel farming practices.
Happy Day of the Ox! Maybe you should try some うなぎパイ – Unagi Pie or biscuits. If you really want an authentic touch get some real sansho from The Japanese Pantry And, let’s make sure something like Hiroshima never happens again, which is also recognized on August 6, 2017.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu returns to the The Brooklyn Kitchen for a Demonstration and dinner in conjunction with some amazing producers of fine Japanese products. Nancy is author of the acclaimed books Japanese Farm Food, and Preserving the Japanese Way and is currently working on Japan: The Cookbook. (Phaidon)
Nancy will be joined by Takehiro Wada of Wadaman Sesame and Jun’ichi Doi of Konbu Doi. Both companies are based in Osaka and are carrying incredible traditions in quality Japanese food into the 21st century.
Wadaman produces some of the best sesame seeds and sesame products available anywhere through a rigorous process that starts in the fields where they source the seeds and continues to their modern factory where they sort, roast and process.
Konbu Doi is a renowned specialty shop focused on seaweed. From the oceans off Hokkaido they bring the best Konbu to market and now these products are available in the USA through our friends at The Japanese Pantry (@japanesepantry.com)
Yamaki Jozo makes some of the most amazing Soy sauce you will ever taste, yuba, tofu and more. It’s organic and truly an artisanal product. Mami Kitani will join Nancy to showcase her family’s line of products produced in Saitama, north of Tokyo.
This is a unique chance to not only learn from one of the premier authorities on Japanese food (who happens to be American) but also a chance to taste, eat and work with the products from two of the top producers in modern Japan.
* Goma Dofu (sesame tofu)
* Konbu Dashi
* Yosedofu (soft tofu)
* Katsuobushi/Konbu Dashi,
* Seasonal Miso Soup with Yamaki Miso
* Ginger and Soy Sauce Marinated Pork Belly Sandwich