What happens when Japanese eel meets French cooking, then jumps from the anime world to the real one? We find out!

Anime/manga franchise Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma could have taken the easy route and coasted by strictly on the absurdity and titillation of the super-suggestive reactions the cast has to their fictional meals. However, what’s helped the series stand out from other low-brow feasts of fan service is its genuine appreciation and respect for the culinary arts.

So if Food Wars is going to show a dish make characters go weak in the knees (as well as seemingly affecting other body parts), you can be sure it’s going to justify it with a detailed description of the fare, which is why today one of the compiled volumes of the manga is also going to be our cookbook.

With over 300 chapters, there are a lot of Food Wars recipes to choose from. But since we’re into midsummer, we went looking for an unagi (freshwater eel) recipe, since Japanese folk wisdom says it’s supposed to help your body cope with hot weather. We found what we were searching for in Volume 11, which features a recipe that mixes Japanese and Western techniques with a recipe for unagi matelote (matelote being a French style of stewing fish in wine sauce).

● 1 cut of unagi
● 1 onion
● Red Wine
● Butter
● Salt
● Pepper
● Cinnamon
● Bread
● Mashed potatoes

Step 1: Dice the onions and sauté them in a small amount of butter

Step 2: Once the onion slices start to become tender, pour enough wine into the pan to cover them.

Step 3: Give yourself about 30 seconds to cook off the alcohol content of the wine, then add your unagi to the pan (you may need to slice it in half, depending on how long it is). We should also point out that we cut a corner by buying a ready-made cut of unagi at our local supermarket, but if you can only find it uncooked you’ll want to grill it first before combining it with the other ingredients, so as not to overcook the sauce,

Step 4: After heating the unagi and letting it soak in some of the sauce’s flavor, remove the eel and put it on a plate. Now go back to the frying pan and add dashes of salt, pepper, and cinnamon to complete the sauce.

Step 5: Pour the sauce onto the unagi and place whatever sort of decorative garnish you happen to have on hand. Add the mashed potatoes and bread (we recommend something with a classy-sounding name, like a baguette or brioche), and you’re ready to eat!

▼ After snapping a few photos, that is.

To be honest, while we were cooking we were a little concerned about the concept. Unagi is a very Japanese ingredient, so would it work well with the flavor of wine? And is red the right wine to use with unagi, or should it be white, since an eel is kind of like a fish?

But there was no way to know for sure until we took a bite, and when we did…

…we learned that Food Wars hadn’t steered us wrong. The juices of the unagi had seeped into the wine sauce while the two were sharing time in the pan, creating a rich and flavorful harmony. We then followed the advice of the characters who’d eaten the unagi matelote in the manga and scooped a bit of unagi, sauce, and mashed potato onto a slice of bread and popped it into our mouth, which made them all even more delicious than they’d have been on their own.

▼ As an added bonus, we also had wine left over in the bottle, which we weren’t about to let go to waste.

So yeah, it turns out you actually can learn how to make a great meal by reading Food Wars!, and with Doyo no Ushi no Hi, the day in which Japanese tradition says you’re supposed to eat unagi, coming up on August 2, we might just have to make this again then.

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