Japanese culture

Is Eel Unagi Halal? Most of them are not but there is one safe way!

Unique shape “seafood”.

Eel, or Unagi in Japanese, is a traditional Japanese food ingredient, which is generally considered as Halal. With its very unique shape, people who have never tried eel may wonder how the taste is like, but it is actually very tasty.

Today, we are going to talk about Japanese dishes that use eel. In Japan, there is a custom to eat eel just before the intense heat in summer, which takes place on 30th July 2023.

Eel is generally considered Halal.

Why do we eat eel before summer?

Eel is very oily and nutritious, which gives us enough energy to beat summer heat. 18 days before the arrival of Risshu day, a day considered to be autumn, Japanese people have a meal with eel to spend the rest of summer days healthily.

This custom is called Doyo no Ushinohi (土用の丑の日). It is calculated based on Chinese Lunar calendar, so the date changes every year. If you are visiting Japan around this day, you may see lots of products with eels in the supermarket or in the department stores.

Eel, especially the one grown in natural lake in Japan, is now considered super luxurious. Though the quality is not as nice as the ones in Japan, eel imported from China is also widely eaten in Japan in modern days.

So, is eel Halal?

Some of the dishes cannot be Halal because of their recipe and ingredients. Let’s take a look at each recipe.

Kabayaki (かば焼き)

The most popular eel dish in Japan, Kabayaki, may not be Halal, because of the sauce they use to cook. This sauce is made from soy sauce, Sake and Mirin alcoholic seasoning. The alcohol in the sauce may be burnt off on the charcoal, but the sauce to add on the rice may still have tiny alcohol.

Eel on rice called Unaju(うな重) or Unadon (うな丼).

Shirayaki (白焼き)

Shirayaki literally means White grilled, to grill something without seasoning or sauce. Although this dish is not eaten as widely as Kabayaki, it is still a very popular way of serving eel. Shirayaki is ideal to enjoy the taste of eel.

The great thing is that it comes without alcoholic seasoning, which was a problem for Kabayaki. Shirayaki can be found in posh restaurants, but they may serve salt to taste the delicate taste of eel.

As it has no alcohol, Shirayaki is our recommendation for Muslims.

Shirayaki served with salt and Wasabi.

Hitsumabushi (ひつまぶし)

Hitsumabushi is a specialty from Nagoya. The dish is now famous throughout Japan, and you may find the dish no matter where you are. Hitsumabushi is very unique because you have various ways to eat. Usually, it should be enjoyed as it is, then with pickles, and finally with Dashi broth on top of the rice.

Hitsumabushi uses Kabayaki eel, so the same risk exists as Kabayaki. If you can accept the risk of residual alcohol and you are around Nagoya area, then you definitely have to try this dish.

Umaki (鰻巻き)

It is a rolled egg with eel inside. It has an attractive looking with vivid yellow color from egg and fluffy eel inside.

Usually, they use Kabayaki eel to make this dish, which has a risk of residual alcohol. Egg is generally mixed with Dashi soup stock from fish and/or seaweed, but sometimes with a bit of Mirin.

As they do not have additional sauce, it can be safer than Kabayaki or Hitsumabushi. All the alcohol in the sauce may have been burnt off.

In conclusion

Unagi is a great way of enjoying Japanese traditional cuisine and the custom, but it is not always served Halal. As introduced, Shirayaki can be the best way to enjoy eel for Muslims. If you can accept the risk of residual alcohol, other recipes also can be your choice in Japan.

We hope you will enjoy your summer gourmet in Japan!

Want to enjoy a safe Unagi product?