Costco Japan adapts a traditional unagi recipe to salmon, and it should let the U.S. market taste it too.

Walking around Japanese branches of Costco can kind of make you feel like you’re warping between Japan and the U.S. Sure, you’ll find the exact same cookies, muffins, and rotisserie chickens Costco sells in the States, but a short walk away you’ll also find packs of octopus and shelves of sake.

Granted, some of those Japanese standards probably wouldn’t be big sellers in the U.S., but we recently came across something that seems like it’d fit in nicely with Costco’s product lineup in the West, and we found it in the fish section.

What you’re looking at there are packs of pre-cooked salmon, but the real draw here is the seasoning. These cuts of fish have all been prepared kabayaki-style, in which they’re butterflied and slathered with a glaze made of soy sauce, sake, mirin (an extra-sweet cooking sake), and sugar. The result is similar to teriyaki, but less cloying and more complex, giving your taste buds a more sophisticated flavor profile to enjoy.

Ordinarily, the kabayaki method is used for cooking unagi, or freshwater eel, and using it for salmon is a pretty novel idea (though a few recipes for kabayaki salmon floating around online suggest that Costco’s cooks might not be the absolute first to try it). But while kabayaki is most closely associated with unagi, unagi itself is a high-priced delicacy, on par with prices for high-quality steak in Japan, and Costco’s kabayaki salmon, even at a 368 yen (US$3.40) for 100 grams (3.5 ounces), is a much more affordable option.

Since the kabayaki salmon is already cooked, you don’t have to fully sauté it, but heating it up in the frying pan gave us a hot meal (plus made us feel like we’d actually done at least some cooking). This being Japan, we ate it with chopsticks, and found it to be tender, juicy, and extremely tasty.

If there’s one complaint, it’s that it didn’t really taste like unagi, since salmon and unagi have pretty different flavors. However, if you’re not starting with a preexisting hankering for eel, that’s really not a drawback, and while kabayaki glaze is a traditional Japanese seasoning, it’s really not so exotic or challenging that you need to already be an experienced connoisseur of Asian cuisine to enjoy it.

The fact that Costco Japan’s kabayaki uses Atlantic salmon means there’s no need for it to be exclusive to the chain’s Japanese branches, so hopefully it’s a recipe that Costco will decide to introduce to its U.S. stores too (though we’ll understand if they’re still not ready for all the octopus).

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