Hitsumabushi is a kind of Japanese dish that consists of grilled eel on rice, originated from the Nagoya area at the centre of Japan. When you hear of “eel on rice”, you might think of Unagi-don (or eel rice bowl) which would be associated with Shizuoka region, one of the most famous Unagi cuisine servers in Japan.
It is true that Unagi-don and Hitsumabushi look so similar many of you may be wondering “what is the difference in these two”? While Unagi-don is popular and famous in Shizuoka prefecture, Hitsumabushi is originally said to be one of the Nagoya gourmets. As each of Unagi dish comes from totally different origins, how it is enjoyed is also easy to distinguish.
Its name Hitsumabushi is the combination of two Japanese words of “ohitsu”, the bowl that eel and rice are served in, and “mabushi” meaning to mix. Therefore, the typical way to eat Hitsumabushi is literally to mix various condiments such as spring onions, wasabi, slices of dried seaweeds, and green tea or broth poured over the eel and rice so that people can enjoy different tastes depending on which ingredients to add. The Unagi served is finely chopped into smaller pieces for Hitsumabushi, which makes it easier to mix with those toppings.
Actually, there are 4 phases of eating Hitsumabushi according to one of the most popular Hitsumabushi restaurants in Nagoya called Horaiken. To begin with, scoop out some Unagi and rice into an empty bowl provided and enjoy as it is without adding any condiments. Secondly, eat with some condiments that are also provided together, but do NOT add the broth soup. Thirdly, you can finally add the broth soup as well as condiments left. And finally, the last phase is to enjoy however you like!
You may be wondering how expensive Hitsumabushi is. Yes, this dish is basically more like a high-class cuisine compared with other kinds of local dishes. Usually, one set of Hitsumabushi costs you around 3,000 JPY, and if you try one at Horaiken that was just introduced, it is almost 4,000 JPY. Although it is not something you can eat often, why don’t you go for it on your special day or as a memory of visiting Nagoya? It is surely worth trying!