July 1998


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Steve Cavrak <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
UVM Japan Program News and Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 23 Jul 1998 22:26:41 -0400
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All stories are excerpted from
        Emerging Markets Datafile,
        Malasia. Various Issues in July, 1998


Of eel and HK delights,
July 13, 1998, Monday

CHECK out the various food promotions in hotels in
Kuala Lumpur. Among them are the Unagi (eel)
promotion, the Hong Kong Food Festival, Californian
Food, and Euro Asian Lunch and Dinner Buffet. With July
21 being Do-Yo-Ush ( Unagi Day), the Legend Hotel's Gen
Restaurant is serving Unagi dishes from Wednesday to
Aug 15. Eel has high nutritional value as it revitalises
the system and improves the complexion. The hotel's
master chefs are all set to serve an impressive menu of
eel temptations such as eel grilled in egg roll, cooked
in claypot, served with seaweed in vinegar sauce,
barbecued, or broiled and served atop rice. Gen
Restaurant is also offering the longest Buffet Spread
with more than 60 dishes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
evenings. Priced at RM48++ per guest, the sumptuous
spread includes California rolls, chawan musgi, sashimi,
sukiyaki, tempura, teppan special, yaki udon, sushi,
soba and somen noodles temaki and sake. For
reservations, call 03-4429888 ext 1011.


Eels for stamina,
July 12, 1998, Sunday

 DON'T say eel. Say unagi. Ah, sounds better, doesn't
it. When the dish is served, there is often little
resemblance to an eel. Usually it is sliced, deboned and
flattened before it is grilled with a coating of thick,
sweet sauce. Unagi has a high protein content and is
healthy food, particularly done kabayaki style where the
eels are grilled crispy and juicy, basted constantly
with a sweet thick soy sauce-based sauce. What really
goes into the sauce which ultimately is the true test of
good kabayaki? In Japan, different restaurants have
their own recipes which they keep a secret. According to
the Tokyo Food Page on the World Wide Web, "eels are
traditionally eaten during one of the hottest days of
summer in the belief that they will provide strength and
vitality for the rest of the year. The eels are grilled
over hot charcoals, steamed to remove excess fat and
then grilled a second time after being seasoned with a
sweet sauce." Eels are imported mainly from Taiwan and
China and in the last few years, eels are shipped live
instead of frozen. Last year, some 1.9 million live eels
were flown in from Taiwan just for Doyo-no-ushi-no-hi.
When customers order a full-course eel meal, it
invariably comes with kimosui, a clear soup made from
eel livers which are very nutritious. In Japan,
specialised unagi restaurants always display on their
shop sign, an elongated "U" character, fashioned to
resemble an eel. More unagi dishes include:

* Kabayaki: Grilled eel
* Unadon: Grilled eel over rice
* Unajyu: Grilled eel piled' over rice
     (larger than unadon)
* Kimosui: Clear soup made from eel livers
* Unagi teishoku: Set meal with kabayaki, rice,
     pickles, and miso or kimosui
* Una-zukushi: Full-course eel meal
    (usually larger than unagi teishoku)
* Kimoyaki: Grilled eel livers with grated radish
* Ikada (yaki): Raft-style' eels, lined up and
     skewered side-by- side
* Shirayaki: Eel, grilled plain without sauce
* Unatama-jyu: Eel and cooked egg over rice
* Umaki tamago: Grilled eel wrapped in cooked egg
* Uzaku: Grilled eel and cucumber in a soy-vinegar sauce
* Yawata-maki: Grilled eel rolled around burdock strips
* Unagi sushi: Small pieces of broiled eel over
     fingers of rice


Get hot on unagi,
July 12, 1998, Sunday

BYLINE: Tan Bee Hong

 IN the hot summer month of July, Japanese enthusiasm
for eels ( unagi) rises with the temperature,
culminating in the annual eel-eating spree on July 20
which is Doyo-no-ushi-nohi, the hottest day of the year.
This custom of eating unagi or Anguilla japonica during
this time of the year started during the Edo or Samurai
period. Unagi Kabayaki is mentioned in a Japanese
traditional poem (waka) written by a famous poet who
lived 1,200 years ago.

Why summer? Apparently, Japanese folks tend to lose
their appetites on hot days and end up eating cooling
foods with little nutrition. So they eat eels which are
very nutritious and packed with vitamins. During this
month, the aroma of unagi on the grill is the season's
favourite scent. Every restaurant in Japan offers unagi
and traditional bento boxes are packed with unajyu or
grilled eel on rice.

But personally, I don't care whether it is eel day or
eel month. Unagi has steadfastly remained my all-time
favourite Japanese dish from January to December.
Perhaps it has something to do with it being hot every
day in Malaysia. I can't think of a better excuse to
indulge in unagi whenever I feel the craving. Japanese
head chef Toshihisa Matsuura of the Nadaman at
Shangri-La Hotel couldn't agree more. " Unagi gives you
plenty of stamina," he says. "It is also very
nutritious, with lots of vitamins."

So, for the month of July, Matsuura is making sure
Malaysians get their share of stamina for the year.
There will be eight special dishes for unagi promotion
for both lunch and dinner, including unajyu, unagi
kabayaki, unagi yanagawa nabe, umaki tamago, uzaku,
unagi tempura, unagi chirashisushi and unagi tougan
manjyu. The eels are flown in specially from Japan but
before this, they would have clocked in flight time from
Taiwan which, together with China, is Japan's biggest
supplier of live eels. Why doesn't he source them from
the eel farms on the East Coast? "I have tried before,"
he replies. "But local eels are tougher in texture and
not suitable for the Japanese way of preparing unagi. "

We start with delicate slices of umaki tamago (RM20).
Actually, I am trying to convert Katie who declares she
has an aversion to eels and the tamago does it so
beautifully. Strips of grilled eel are rolled in
panfried egg and sliced crosswise. The omelette wrap is
so light and fluffy it melts in the mouth. The unagi
itself is tender and imparts a wonderful aroma to the
tamago, instantly lifting it from the humble realms of
an ordinary egg. Katie seems to be enjoying her share.

Second on the hit-list is unagi tougan manjyu (RM30).
It's served in individual bowls and all one can see is a
jade-like translucent cake kept moist by a thick sauce
of light honey hues. Where's the eel? Well, simply cut
into that slab of winter melon and the eel is revealed,
tucked away within the softness of the melon. It is a
ching (light and clear) dish which prepares us well for
the more heady dish of unagi yanagawa nabe. Served in
shallow clay bowls, the squares of unagi rest on a bed
of steamed egg and shredded burdock.

"Sprinkle some sansho on it," urges Matsuura-san. Sansho
is a mildly hot Japanese seasoning made from the ground
berries of the prickly ash tree. It comes in a little
bowl with a cute little wooden spatula which which you
scoop the sansho. Burdock, a root vegetable known in
Japan as gobo, is sliced and provides plenty of texture
and fibre to the dish, absorbing well the flavour of
tender unagi. Both Katie and I enjoy the burdock with
its sweet, earthy flavour and tender-crisp texture.

Although unagi kabayaki and unajyu are my firm
favourites, I decide to get a little more adventurous
with the eels this time. So far, it has been a most
satisfying decision and the rice dish of unagi chirasi
sushi (RM40). This is grilled eel served over vinegared
rice, not very much unlike unajyu, I thought. But I am
proved wrong. The squares of grilled unagi with its
sweet sticky brown sauce are served with peas over a
finely- shredded omelette and rice all right, but this
time, the rice is not plain white. Well mixed into it
are chopped shitake mushrooms and a preserved vegetable
of sorts, both of which give added flavour to the rice.
Again, most Japanese would sprinkle the ubiquitous
sansho over this dish, but I kind of prefer it the way
it is. The rice soaks up the sweet sauce and rich juice
of the unagi and is good literally to the last grain
while the unagi itself is crisp on the outside and
softly tender inside.

Having read somewhere that to be a real unagi chef, one
needs to spend the first three years learning to cut,
gut and skew, and then another eight years learning to
steam. "This is probably true only in the past when
cooking unagi was a dedicated form of work," says
Matsuura-san. "Today, I would say about three years
would be enough learning for a chef to be skilled at
unagi dishes."