Cattail-Seared Eel on Rice


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

An Ocean of Flavor: The Japanese Way with Fish and Seafood

An Ocean of Flavor

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1988

  • About

Many marshes in Japan are filled with cattails, and the image of these plump, burnished brown aquatic grasses is appealing to the Japanese. So much so that glazed plank-grilled eels and other butterflied fishes that fan out to resemble the shape and color of cattails are called by that name.

If you’ve never eaten grilled eel before, you may be surprised at how rich yet finely textured the meat is. The sweet soy glaze helps seal in the natural oils and flavor. Excellent commercially prepared kabayaki (“cattail-seared” eel) is available at most Oriental groceries in the United States. Look in the freezer section where vacuum-sealed packages are stored. These make a quick, nutritious, and delicious meal.


Extra Sauce

If Needed; See Step 1

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons mirin (syrupy rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 servings ounces each kabayaki (glaze-grilled eel)
  • 2 cups hot cooked rice
  • ¼ teaspoon sansho (fragrant Japanese pepper)


  1. Check to see if your purchased eel comes with a packet of extra sauce. If it doesn’t, make some for yourself: In a small saucepan combine the soy sauce, syrupy rice wine, and sugar. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until bubbly. Continue to simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to a syrupy glaze.
  2. Heat the glaze-grilled eel according to packet instructions. (This is usually in the original bag in a pot of simmering water, or in a microwave oven.)
  3. Divide the hot rice between two deep bowls. Place the heated eel on top of the rice, and pour the extra sauce over all. Garnish with a sprinkling of fragrant pepper, and serve immediately.