Vegan “Unagi” with Shiitake


I love unagi, but with the endangerment of the glass eel population (as well as the rising cost), it might be best to cool it with the eel. Although I’ve been following the eel news for several months, I hadn’t considered alternatives, but I saw this recipe for “Mock Eel” in the latest issue of Saveur and was intrigued.

Mock Eel | I'll Make It Myself!

The original made a ton, though–two of my friends and I had it as a main dish with two okazu and rice, and it was more like 8 servings than 4. The texture isn’t like eel–it’s toothsome, hearty, and a little chewy, like meat, but lacks that “melt in your mouth” texture of unagi. (Oh, Nagoya!) The umami is dead on, though.

The recipe is vegan and gluten-free if your cornstarch and soy sauce are gluten-free.

Here’s my suggestion for the amount of ingredients*:

  • 3.5 oz. (100 g) dried shiitake mushrooms with stems removed
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch
  • ~2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 (1/2″) piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/6 cup (2 TBSP + 2 tsp / 40 mL) soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP (16 g) sugar

Finally, the time: you soak the mushrooms for 10 minutes, but since you have to drain them and squeeze out the water prior to frying, that’s another 30 or so minutes. For the full recipe, it took me about 50 minutes from start to finish.

See the original recipe and instructions on Savuer

*Japanese ingredients:

  • dried shiitake mushrooms (hoshi shiitake, 干し椎茸)
  • Canola oil (kyanôra abura, キャノーラ油)
  • cornstarch (kôn sutâchi, コーンスターチ)
  • scallions (naga negi, 長ネギ)
  • fresh ginger (shôga, 生姜)
  • soy sauce (shôyu, 醤油)
  • sugar (satô, 砂糖)

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