Andrea Urbinati

Unveiling the Delicious Delicacy of Hitsumabushi

Di Andrea Urbinati

blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo

Hitsumabushi is a delectable regional dish hailing from Nagoya, Japan, featuring grilled eel smothered in a sweet unagi sauce and served over rice in a wooden container. This culinary delight offers three distinct ways to relish its flavors, and in this blog post, I’ll guide you through creating this dish from scratch and savoring it like a pro!

The Delicious World of Hitsumabushi

Hitsumabushi is a tantalizing dish with a rich history and intricate flavors. Allow me to walk you through its fascinating origins and what makes this traditional Japanese dish truly special.

What Exactly Is Hitsumabushi?

Hitsumabushi is not just any ordinary dish; it’s a captivating culinary experience that combines the finest grilled eel, fluffy rice, and an array of delightful condiments. The eel is gorgeously grilled and carefully seasoned to perfection, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is simply divine. This dish is traditionally served in a large wooden container called “ohitsu,” adding an extra touch of authenticity to the dining experience.

The magic of hitsumabushi lies in its three-part serving process. First, you savor a portion of the eel and rice as is, allowing the natural flavors to shine. Next, you can customize the second portion by adding condiments like nori (seaweed), green onions, and wasabi, enhancing the dish with a burst of complementary tastes and textures. Finally, the third portion can be enjoyed as ochazuke, a comforting dish made by pouring flavorful broth over the remaining eel and rice.

The Origin Story

The captivating tale of hitsumabushi dates back to the vibrant city of Nagoya, Japan. It was first crafted by the creative minds of the eel-loving locals, who sought to elevate the dining experience by introducing a dish that celebrates the exquisite flavors of grilled eel in a unique and interactive manner. Hitsumabushi quickly gained popularity, capturing the hearts and taste buds of food enthusiasts across Japan and eventually making its mark on the international culinary scene.

Close-up Photo of Hitsumabushi Served on Table Photo by Pixabay

Key Ingredients for the Perfect Hitsumabushi

I’m about to let you in on the hush-hush secrets of what makes hitsumabushi so darn irresistible. Picture this: a medley of flavors that’ll make your taste buds tingle with joy. Let’s dive right into the key players in the hitsumabushi masterpiece.

The Star of the Show

Behold the main character in this magical dish – grilled eel, also known as unagi. It’s the unsung hero that brings a rich, smoky flavor to the table. The eel is tender, succulent, and downright delicious. Just one bite, and you’ll be hooked.

The Sweet and Savory Unagi Sauce

Now, let’s talk sauce. The unagi sauce is where the sweet meets the savory, creating a tantalizing dance on your palate. It’s a luscious blend of flavors, with hints of sweetness and a subtle umami punch. This sauce takes the hitsumabushi from delightful to downright heavenly.


Last but certainly not least, we have the humble yet essential rice. But not just any rice – it’s perfectly cooked, fluffy, and ready to soak up all the flavors from the eel and sauce. It’s the supporting actor that brings everything together in one harmonious bite.

So, there you have it. These three components are the magic behind the perfect hitsumabushi. But wait, there’s more to the hitsumabushi saga. Stay tuned for the next installment of this culinary adventure!

Preparing Hitsumabushi at Home

Hitsumabushi, a regional Nagoya dish, can be prepared at home with a few simple steps. Start by grilling the eel to perfection, followed by mixing and matching the components, and finally, adding the final touch for an authentic flavor.

Grilling the Eel to Perfection

To achieve the perfect flavor and texture, the eel should be grilled meticulously. Start by marinating the eel in a combination of soy sauce, mirin, and sake to enhance its natural flavors. Grill the eel over hot charcoal or a broiler until it is tender and caramelized, giving it a smoky and savory taste. The grilling process is crucial as it brings out the rich umami flavor of the eel, adding depth to the dish.

A Couple Sitting on Chair while Grilling on Campfire Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

Mixing and Matching

Once the eel is grilled to perfection, it’s time to mix and match the components of hitsumabushi. Chop the grilled eel into bite-sized pieces and layer it over a bowl of steamed rice. Additionally, include condiments such as chopped spring onions and kizami nori to add a hint of freshness and texture to the dish. The combination of different elements creates a balanced and flavorful eating experience.

The Final Touch

Adding the final touch to hitsumabushi is essential to elevate its taste. Drizzle a generous amount of sweet unagi sauce over the grilled eel and rice. The unagi sauce, with its sweet and savory profile, complements the smokiness of the eel, resulting in a harmonious blend of flavors. This step ties the dish together, ensuring that each bite is packed with delightful flavors and aromas.

Kids Making DIY Easter Eggs Photo by cottonbro studio

The Unique Experience of Eating Hitsumabushi

As I sat down to experience the delightful Nagoya tradition of hitsumabushi, little did I know that I was in for a unique dining experience. The process of savoring hitsumabushi involves three distinct phases, each adding its own delightful twist to the dish.

Step-by-Step, The Three Phases of Savoring Hitsumabushi

After the hitsumabushi tray was presented to us, our kind waitress guided us through the process, starting with dividing the bowl of rice and eel into four quadrants. We each scooped a quadrant into our rice bowls, savoring the eel in its pure form to truly appreciate its flavor and texture. The crispy grilled edges of the eel, a result of the Nagoya style of grilling without steaming, added a delightful crunch to the experience.

The second phase involved mixing a quadrant with freshly grated wasabi and finely sliced spring onions, resulting in a burst of flavors that complemented the eel and rice exquisitely.

Moving on to the third quadrant, we topped it with shredded nori and a clear dashi broth, transforming the eel and rice into a comforting congee-like dish. While the flavors were delightful, the broth softened the crispy eel edges, altering the texture but adding a new dimension to the dish.

Finally, the last quadrant allowed us to create our own unique blend, adding a dab of wasabi and spring onions according to our preferences, ensuring that each bite was a personalized delight.

The whole ritual involved in savoring hitsumabushi added an air of excitement and anticipation to the meal, making it a truly memorable experience. The Nagoya style of grilling the eel without steaming added a unique twist, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Regional Variations and Modern Twists

Hitsumabushi is a dish that has evolved over time and has given rise to regional variations and modern takes. From Nagoya to your plate, this unagi delight has seen creative transformations that cater to diverse palates across the globe. Let’s explore the regional variations and modern twists that have elevated the experience of savoring hitsumabushi.

From Nagoya to Your Plate

Cooked Foods Photo by Isabella Mendes

Nagoya, the birthplace of hitsumabushi, continues to exude its influence on this dish. The traditional method of preparation can still be savored in its place of origin, offering authenticity that forms the foundation for all variations of hitsumabushi. As this delicacy traveled beyond Nagoya, chefs and food enthusiasts around the world have infused their individuality, leading to a myriad of innovative renditions.

Creative Takes on a Classic Dish

The essence of hitsumabushi remains intact in its traditional form, but modern interpretations have brought about bold and creative variations. Some culinary maestros infuse unique spices to add a twist, while others play with presentation, delivering hitsumabushi in unconventional yet delightful ways. From incorporating fusion ingredients to reimagining the cooking process, the modern twists on hitsumabushi continue to captivate food lovers worldwide, offering a fresh and exciting dining experience.

These regional variations and modern twists are a testament to the enduring appeal and adaptability of hitsumabushi, showcasing the dynamic nature of culinary traditions and the innovative spirit that defines contemporary gastronomy.

Dining Out: Finding the Best Hitsumabushi Restaurants

Hitsumabushi, a signature dish of Nagoya, is best savored at top-notch eateries known for their authentic flavors and traditional preparation methods. The Legendary Atsuta Horaiken is one such renowned establishment that has been serving exquisite Hitsumabushi for generations. This historic restaurant is widely celebrated for its commitment to preserving the original recipe and providing an immersive dining experience that captures the essence of Nagoya’s culinary heritage.

Hitsumabushi Restaurant
Photo by Nicu Cobasnean

When it comes to identifying authentic Hitsumabushi eateries, there are a few key elements to look for. First and foremost, consider the restaurant’s reputation within the local community and among seasoned food enthusiasts. Additionally, pay attention to traditional preparation techniques, where the grilling and seasoning methods play a pivotal role in achieving the dish’s characteristic flavors. Seeking out dining establishments that prioritize sourcing high-quality, fresh eel and locally sourced ingredients is also a valuable indicator of authenticity. By observing these aspects, you can enhance your culinary journey and ensure a memorable Hitsumabushi experience that stays true to its origins.

Atsuta Shrine
Photo by Cheng CJ


In conclusion, hitsumabushi is a delightful Nagoya specialty that combines the savory flavors of grilled eel with fragrant rice, creating a dish that offers a unique and enjoyable dining experience. Its rich history and the three distinct ways of savoring its deliciousness make hitsumabushi a must-try for food enthusiasts. Whether enjoyed as is, with condiments, or as ochazuke, hitsumabushi promises a culinary adventure that captures the essence of Nagoya’s culinary expertise.

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About the author
blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo

Hi! I’m Andrea, a passionate freelance writer with a knack for captivating storytelling.

With a decade of marketing expertise and a genuine love for crafting compelling content, I bring your ideas to life!

Let me know if you need a writer for your blog!

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