Monday, July 9, 2018

Eating Eels in Himeji (Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)

Eels. This photo from
Japan consumes 70% of the Global Haul of Eels, yet I haven't tasted one. Their snake-like appearance repels me. But they're not snakes. Sea snakes don't have fins. They do. 

Eels are also nutritious because their meat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamin A and calcium. The Japanese terms: "unagi" for fresh-water eel, "anago" for salt water eel, which is the healthier option of the two, and less fattening.


From Hiroshima, on my way to Kobe, I decided to take a fast detour to Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture's 2nd biggest city, located at the western fringes of Kansai Region. I was there to see Japan's finest castle - Himeji Castle, which would become my favorite castle in all of Japan. 

After the castle visit, and a peek into gorgeous Kokoen Garden, I leisurely strolled back to the main street of Otemaedori towards the JR Himeji Station. I saw a quaint cafe with no English sign. I snuck my head in and loved the vibe inside. I was alone. An adorable old lady appeared so I decided to get my late lunch there - and have my very first eel meal. 

I ordered their Conger Eel Rice Meal set costing me 1,500 yen. The set has the usual miso soup, a salad, and the fried eel on a bowl. I initially placed my backpack beside the low table on the tatami mat but it was uncomfortable, so I transferred to the taller tables. 

I dug into my eel, done kabayaki style. The meat is firmer than I thought so there's a bit of chewing to be had. My anago-don was savory with a hint of sweetness. There was just a bit of aftertaste, but it could have been my imagination. Otherwise, I wouldn't consume every bit of my anago. Eels are a Japanese family's favorite when there are special occasions. When relatives huddle for a serious discussion, they have eel. I know this much from my Japanese movies. Haha

I was about to go when the photo of a dessert piece seduced my curiosity - Cool Zenzai for 650 yen. 

Zenzai is a traditional Japanese dessert.  It has a thick sweet soup with boiled azuki beans and mochi (rice cake); some have shiratama dango (glutinous rice flour dumplings) instead. Mine had a sea of white jelly. In East Japan, Zenzai, called Oshiruko, has a slight twist. It's a more watery preparation. This Kansai version though was delicious.

Cafe Jidai is located at the main commercial drag of Himeji, along Otemaedori street.

My Zenzai has red beans. mochi balls and white jelly cubes.

The main street, Otemaedori, is a straight line from the train station to Himeji Castle. I took this from the train platform. Cafe Jidai is at the left side of this photo.

#anago   #eel   # dining   #himeji   #hyogo

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