Monday, December 05, 2005

Bento Watch #32

(Update: Due to some interest in this post, here are the sites I used to make my eel:

  • This site is the one that mentioned the eel head, though I grilled it instead of broiled it so that I could impart some smokey taste into the sauce.
  • I got the blessing to put garlic in the sauce from the unagi sauce recipe off this site.
  • I read this site for tips on how to prep the eel. Some of it is mildly disturbing.)
I'm cheating a bit on this one since this was a weekend dinner rather than a weekday lunch, but the intent is the same.

I decided to practice at taking my sushi making abilities to the next level by making eel rolls. Mrs. Sandmich was kind enough to stop by the Asian market and pick me up a bag of assorted eel parts*. I wanted to follow a recipe (which I'm too lazy to find at the moment) for the eel sauce, but it required eel head. Low and behold, I open the bag and it contains no fewer than two eel heads. Nothing like opening a bag from the grocer to have something in it staring back at you, no? I was quite disturbed by this and quickly got the heads out onto the grill, per the directions for the sauce. I then blanched the other eel sections to 'remove slime/scum' and then go through the effort of skinning and cleaning some meat off my three inch sections while my freshly BBQ'd eel heads boil in my eel sauce (you're getting hungry, I can tell!)**. After that, I soaked the meat generously in the sauce and put it on the grill to cook.

Completed eel meat broken up into roll portions. The sauce is on the left

I also found a decent recipe for the vinegar sauce that's put over the cooked rice. The end result was a sushi rice that was better than the sushi rice I've had at all but the best sushi bars***.

Completed rolls. I should have done half sheets as these rolls came out too 'ricey' for even my tastes.

Below is a picture of some recently used soy sauces.

The 'assi' 'Japanese Style' is a Korean soy sauce and I think that big bottle set me back three bucks (at a Korean grocer no less). It's no Kikkoman****, but it has a pleasant unique taste all to its own (or 'had', seeing as how I used it all). The one in front is a Chinese soy sauce that I picked up from parts unknown; it's taste reminded me of that smell that dogs get after you clean them with Pert or other 'people' shampoos. Not foul, not off, but....bad. I made the eel sauce out of it hoping that I could rescue it, but it was all for not - I threw it in the trash after taking this pic.

* There seems to be a bit of confusion, as usual, as to what Japanese word applies to this eel. It kinda looks like an 'unagi', but kinda doesn't. I followed 'unagi' recipes for making the rolls (eel prep, sauce, etc.) and the taste fit with my expectations.

** One tip I read on the net said to clean the eel outside. When I was about three quarters of the way through I figured I should have done exactly that despite the fact that it was like 15 degrees outside. Peeling and cutting the eel wasn't as clean as doing up a fish (which is dirty enough) and it's difficult to chase away the fish stink from all the counters, utensils, etc.

*** Some recipes call for the vinegar to be mixed with water, blah blah blah. the one I found had weird directions of mixing 1-5 tsp of sugar (and some salt) with rice vinegar. I thought this was for some sort of vague taste preference, but I discovered that this was due to the fact that different amounts of sugar will go into solution differently for different rice vinegars. A much easier method then is to add 1 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt and then put in two tablespoons of vinegar, then stir constantly and slowly add vinegar until all the sugar goes into solution (it should stay in solution when you stop stirring). Then have someone fan the hot rice while you fold the solution into it. (This is good for about three cups of cooked rice, which itself is enough for five big rolls).

**** I'll note not to use the low sodium Kikkoman soy sauce. The intent is nice, but you wind up using twice as much.

One final note, I noticed that my pack of 10 nori sheets from the Asian market cost like $1.50 and the 50 pack is $7. Adding up everything else, sans fillings, steamer and giant bag of rice, I could probably repurchase everything I need for less than $10.

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