Monday, March 26, 2007

Business Lunch: Who Put The Unagi in the Microwave?

Here's another easy lunch idea that I sometimes do. It's quick and makes me feel like I'm at a sushi bar. When I go to get sushi, I often order unagi, or broiled eel. I think it's the unique barbeque sauce they slather onto the eel that makes it so yummy. And the eel is often cooked so a lot of people who are shy of raw fish often start with unagi (after graduating from the California roll).

You can buy unagi in the freezer section of any grocery stores in Japantown in San Francisco or San Jose, or at any Asian grocery store such as Ranch 99. Then I just keep it in my freezer and when I have the hankering for something sushi for my work lunch, this is what I put together. (Since this isn't really a recipe because it's so simple that you're not actually cooking anything, I thought I'd just walk you through the following steps.)
Rice is the base: Start by cooking a cup or so of sushi-grade rice. (Sushi rice is shorter grain, similar to arborio rice for risotto. So it's a bit stickier when cooked, but not the same as sticky rice.) Cook as much rice as you want. For me, I typically make two days' worth of this lunch so I don't have to prep more than once.
Seasoning the rice: When the rice is done, season it with rice vinegar. There are several varieties, so buy the one that says it's for sushi on the label. But if you just have regular rice vinegar, that's fine too. Like salt, drizzle a little in, mix the rice and taste. Then add to your taste. (Keep in mind that as the rice cools, the vinegar taste will get absorbed by the rice and is more subtle.) Make sure you do this when the rice is warm so it'll absorb the rice vinegar.
Dress it up: After I scoop the rice into my lunch container, I rip some nori or dried seaweed on top just to give it another flavor level. I always keep a packet of nori in my refrigerator just for these purposes.
Now for the star: Get your unagi from the freezer and then cut it into a smaller piece to fit nicely into your container. Now, the following is optional. You can simply put the unagi into your container and then you're all done. The unagi is basically cooked already, so that's why it's not necessary to cook it. And when you reheat your lunch in the microwave, it'll cook the unagi some more. However, if you feel the need to cook your unagi, you can warm it up quickly on a non-stick pan. But you only need to do it for a minute.
Ready for lunch: Garnish your unagi rice with some pickled ginger (yes, I always keep a container in my refrigerator as well) and then you're all set to go. Like I mentioned, you can reheat it in the microwave for about 3 minutes or you can also eat it cold since the unagi is pre-cooked. Either way, it's a nice lunch with little hassles.

(Tip: before you microwave your unagi, you might want to take out the pickled ginger if you don't like to eat it warm. If it doesn't matter, then there's no problem microwaving it along with your unagi.)


Anonymous said...

Excellent idea! Tasty, healthy and easy. I'm on it.

Anonymous said...

Great idea. A way to satisfy a Japanese craving, without ever leaving the desk :)

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juliek said...

I might take the nori and add it after heating. That way it stays crispy! Thank you for a great office lunch idea, even though I am a dud at making rice (tsk tsk for a JA girl)