Nissin’s Mystery Unagi isn’t quite like its Mystery Meat, though.

As the makers of Cup Noodle, Nissin is one of Japan’s best-loved and most-trusted suppliers of instant meals. So while the name of Nissin’s newest offering may raise some eyebrows, it’s also got a lot of people in Japan licking their lips in anticipation of their first taste.

So just what is that new offering? Mystery Eel.

As Japanese cuisine foodies might already be aware, freshwater eel, or unagi, as it’s called in Japanese, is traditionally eaten in the summer, because folk wisdom holds that it contains nutrients that help prevent heat exhaustion. This is actually a baseless claim started long ago by eel merchants, and even though modern science doesn’t support it, unagi is considered a delicacy in Japan, and having an excuse to eat it is probably part of why Japan still runs with the custom to this day, especially on Doyo no Hi, a day that falls in midsummer.

▼ Unagi

However, unagi is pretty expensive, and generally not the sort of thing you’ll find in instant foodstuffs. So for its Cup Meshi line of instant rice bowl/cup meals, Nissin has developed Mystery Unagi, pictured below.

Now, if you remember our previous article where we peeled back the curtain and revealed the true identity of the Mystery Meat Nissin uses in Cup Noodle, you might think you’ve already solved this mystery. Mystery Meat is a mixture of pork and soybean, so is Mystery Unagi eel and soybean? Or maybe it’s a mix of eel and pork? Either of those combinations would be less expensive than pure unagi, making them more viable for inclusion in an instant meal.

But it turns out that Mystery Unagi isn’t made by combining unagi with some less-premium-priced ingredient. As a matter of fact, Nissin’s mystery eel contains no ell at all. It’s a plant-based unagi substitute.

Nissin first brought plant-based unagi to market last year, offering a limited quantity of 1,000 packs of imitation eel filets which sold out in just one minute. With production ramping up, they’re now ready to expand its availability to the Cup Meshi line with Mystery Unagi-don, which goes on sale later this month. Similar to Cup Noodle, Cup Meshi is made by pouring boiling water into the cup and waiting for it to cook the rice and other ingredients, which in the case of Mystery Unagi-don takes five minutes. Once it’s cooked, you pour on the included packet of sweet and spicy glaze, the same sort customarily brushed on grilled unagi filets, and the seasonings also include sansho, the earthy Japanese pepper that fans says is a must when eating unagi.

However, while Mystery Unagi is plant-based, Mystery Unagi-don doesn’t appear to be vegan, as Nissin describes the broth that cooks when you add the hot water as “soy-based with added umami of whitefish,” implying that there’s fish stock present.

Still, with Nissin’s reputation for tastiness and convenience, a lot of people are looking forward to Mystery Unagi-don, with Twitter comments such as:

“It’s finally happening!”
“Really intrigued by this.”
“Definitely eating this.”
“I don’t like eating actual unagi because it has so many tiny bones, so this sounds really appealing to me.”
“Gonna make this my meal for Doyo no Hi this year.”

In addition to being quick and convenient, at a price of 369 yen (US$2.30) Mystery Unagi-don is also quite a bit cheaper than an actual-eel unagi rice bowl. It goes on sale in Japan’s Kanto, Koshinetsu, Chibu, and Kinki regions on July 15, just in time for Doyo no Hi, which falls on July 25 this year.

Source: Nissin via Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@currymeshikun
Top image: Nissin
Insert images: SoraNews24, Nissin
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