Yanagawa is about 1.5 hours train ride from Hakata, making it perfect for a day trip. Here are two reasons why you should visit Yanagawa: (1) the boat ride through the canals, and (2) the local specialty Unagi no Seiromushi – steamed unagi (eel) rice. Since the boat ride takes 70 minutes, I purposely took the morning tour. Then we can eat the delicious eel rice for lunch right after our ride!
Before I get into details, I believe it’s important to mention the difference between unagi-don and unagi no seiromushi. In general, a unagi-don is a bowl of rice topped with grilled eel and sauce drizzled on top. Of course, there are many ways to cook the eel, such as the Kanto style or the Kansai style. Unagi no seiromushi still contains the same components, but the grilled eel, sauce, and some finely shredded fried eggs are placed on top of semi-cooked rice in a bamboo box. Then everything gets steamed until the rice is fully cooked.
Unagi no Seiromushi in Yanagawa
Unagi no seiromushi is a specialty in Yanagawa. Since our train and riverboat discount package came with a coupon for the restaurant Rokkyu (六騎民芸茶屋), we decided to stop there for lunch. This restaurant had very traditional decor with both table and tatami settings. With our group of 7, we were only able to sit at a standard table.
After bringing us tea, the waitress kindly told us that the coupon only applies to the unagi no seiromushi meals that come in the traditional bamboo box. The rice portion is the same for small, medium, and large meal size. The only difference is the number of grilled eel pieces in each box. Since we were planning to get desserts at our next location, we opted for the small set with 2 pieces of unagi, some pickled vegetables and a soup with eel liver.
The Eel Liver Soup
Let’s start with the soup. It’s a clear broth that looks like dashi. I was worried that the soup might taste fishy. But to my surprise, both the broth and the liver doesn’t taste fishy at all. I actually liked this soup very much.
The Steamed Eel Rice
When the steamed eel rice arrived it smelled so good I almost dug in without taking photos! The unagi was not as fatty as I had imagined and the sauce tasted just a tad bit sweeter than the ones I’ve had in Vancouver. Since the eel was cooked over charcoal, it looked quite caramelized but they were not dry at all. Each piece of unagi was about 2″ x 3″ in size.
While most would say the unagi was the star of this dish, for me it was the rice. Cooked with the grilled eel and unagi sauce, the rice absorbed all the flavours. It was simply delicious. I polished off every grain of rice in the bamboo box.
The original price of this unagi no seiromushi set meal is ¥1,850 but we saved ¥100 with our coupon. So lunch was about $20 CAD per person. A pretty good price for cook-to-order unagi meal. Next time I’m in Kanto or Kansai area, I’ll have to try unagi-don to compare the different eel cooking methods!
Traveling to Fukuoka, Japan? Here’s a list of things to do in Fukuoka.