UP 5

Even though I was an extremely finicky eater growing up, my palate has broadened quite a bit since moving to Japan. In the years I’ve spent living in Tokyo and Yokohama, I’ve become convinced that cooking a cut of tuna is the quickest way to ruin its flavor, spicy cod roe makes an excellent pasta sauce, and that chicken cartilage isn’t just something you can eat, but should.

Still, I’m not entirely sold on unagi, or freshwater eel. Honestly, the flavor is surprisingly mild and not unpleasant, but I still have a hard time getting past the mental image of the snake-like appearance for something that, in my opinion, tastes just OK and is a little on the expensive side.

On the other hand, unagi-shaped chocolate pastries make a much more compelling argument.

This year, July 29 was Doyo no Hi, the annual day when people in Japan are encouraged to eat unagi due to its touted stamina-boosting effects that help one cope with the summer heat. While this has largely been debunked as a baseless boast fabricated by unagi salesmen, for the many people in Japan who love the dish it’s become a good excuse to have eel for dinner.

This has been going on for generations, but this year Doyo no Hi combined with two of the more recent food trends in Japan: decadent desserts and cute designs. The result is unagi pastries, like a cream-filled confectionary from convenience store 7-Eleven. A chocolate version was available nationwide, some regions even got their own limited-edition versions. For example, shoppers in Tokyo’s northwestern Tama district could get white chocolate unagi bread.

Unlike unagi pie, a kind of crispy traditional cookie made with unagi bone as a hardening agent, 7-Eleven’s unagi bread is 100 percent eel-free. The same goes for the numerous bakeries around Japan which also offered their own unagi-inspired creations for Doyo no Hi.

Some people even managed to get their hands on unagi éclairs, like the one shown below on the left.

▼ Meanwhile, the guy on the right sort of reminds us of the characters from Sega’s classic rearing game/weirdfest Seaman.

The largest variety seemed to be at the supermarket Yaoko, which has most of its branches in Saitama Prefecture.

▼ Who says there’s nothing cool to see in Saitama?

Clever bakers didn’t limit themselves to just copying the animal itself, though. Here’re a “grilled unagi on skewers” croissant. Unagi is usually seasoned with a thick soy-based sauce, but this bakery instead added chocolate or peanut glaze to their unagi Danishes.

No one is claiming these unagi sweets will help ward off heatstroke, but they still look tasty and cool, and when choosing a sweet treat, that’s really all that matters.

Source: Naver Matome