While many Westerners picture watermelon, daiquiris and ice cream when they think of summer, Tokyo gets excited for their traditional treat, broiled eel. In fact, they even have a special day to commemorate the dish, Unagi no Hi, also known as Midsummer Day of the Ox, or Eel Day.
The annual event, which takes place every year at the end of July, took place on Friday, July 27. Apparently, the high content of oil in the animal’s flesh can provide locals with enough energy to get them through the remaining hot summer days. On the holiday, locals will head to their favorite restaurant serving eel to order the dish.
According to CNNGo, a bucket of live eels is traditionally kept under the floorboards of the restaurant, until ordered by a patron. Then, the animal is sliced into filets and pierced with bamboo skewers. From there, they are lightly grilled over charcoal before being steamed to soften the meat and release the oils. Finally, the eel is placed back on the charcoals to broil some more while basting. This method is known as kabayaki, and has been employed since Tokyo was called Edo.
Unfortunately, Tokyo’s neighborhoods are changing, as are people’s tastes. Not only that, but the decrease in eel supplies and the rising price of the dish make this once common meal an occasional splurge. For your next trip, you may want to consider visiting Tokyo to taste the tradition before it’s too late.
[Image via Alpha]