Snakehead "Unagi Don"

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Our first “date-date” (that wasn’t driving to H-Mart or putting up drywall- don’t ask) was at a little sushi joint in town. I don’t recall everything we ordered, but I know unagi don made it to our plates. Unagi is eel- served at a sushi restaurant, it’s usually glazed with a sticky-savory-sweet sauce called kabayaki and grilled. It’s one of my absolute favorites and I crave it constantly.

We don’t have any eel in the freezer, so we improvised with thin snakehead fillets, glazed with kabayaki sauce and roasted over hardwood flames. You can serve this over a bowl of sushi rice, or do as we did, and make cucumber rolls, then lay pieces of the snakehead over top. We have included instruction on how to roll a cucumber roll, but there are plenty of pros out there on youtube who do a great job showing how it’s done. Check out this video for tips.

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Snakehead “Unagi Don”

Prep time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4


Kabayaki Sauce


¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup mirin

2 ½ tbsp sugar

2 ½ tbsp maltose

2 tbsp sake



Combine all ingredients in small saucepan and simmer until reduced by half.


Snakehead “Unagi Don”


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1 snakehead fillet, skinless (use any firm, mild, grillable fish)

Kabayaki sauce, as needed


Begin by lighting your grill. Start with a base of charcoal, and then add pieces of hardwood once the coals are lit. You want a good amount of smoke to bring a lot of extra flavor to the fish.

Season snakehead fillet with salt & pepper and lightly oil. Place fillet on grill and brush the top with kabayaki sauce. Flip after 1 minute & brush the other side with sauce. Continue flipping and brushing the fillet with sauce every minute or so, until the fish is cooked through and the sauce is caramelized and deeply colored. This should take about 6-10 minutes, depending on the heat of the grill and the thickness of the fillet.

Remove from grill and brush the fillet one more time with sauce, then top with sesame seeds. Serve with wasabi and soy sauce.


Cucumber & Chive Rolls

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1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into ¼” strips


2 cups sushi rice

¼ cup mirin

¼ cup sake

¼ cup sugar

2 tbsp salt

Nori sheets


Prepare the rice according to package directions in rice cooker.

Heat mirin, sake, sugar and salt in a small saucepan, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool until no longer steaming. Season the sushi rice with ½ cup of the mirin-sake mixture, drizzling and stirring it in until all the rice is uniformly seasoned. Allow to cool slightly until the rice can be easily handled without burning.

Wrap a bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap to prevent sticking. Lay out a sheet of nori, and then, with slightly damp hands, scoop sushi rice onto the seaweed and press into a flat, even layer.

Lay the sliced cucumber and chives in a straight line about ¾ of an inch from the end of the mat. Lift the end of the mat and begin rolling the sushi, pressing downwards and inwards to keep the roll in a tight cylinder. This is best understood visually- watch this video for an explanation.

When your roll is complete, lay on a cutting board and cut into 1 inch thick pieces.