In my previous post, I took you through my Yanagawa Canal Punting experience. Oddly enough, we were famished by the time we returned to land despite not being the ones rowing our boat through the waters. We were really targeting only one thing to have for lunch while we were here, and it was the Yanagawa specialty called Unagi no Seiromushi, or Yanagawa Steamed Eel Rice.
The Nishitetsu Company included a discount coupon in their One-Day Sightseeing Ticket pack for Yanagawa and Dazaifu to encourage people to try this Steamed Eel Rice. You actually only get 100 yen discount per ticket, so technically it’s not that big of a discount. We ended up taking the bait though. (And then later on bought some coffee from a nearby supermarket with the 100 yen we “saved” lol.)
[READ MORE about the Nishitetsu Sightseeing Ticket!]
On the Ohana side of town, we went looking for the restaurant called Rokkyu 民芸茶屋六騎. It’s one of the two restaurants that accepts the Nishitetsu discount coupon. (The other is called Fuuki.) Rokkyu manages to mix interiors and decor that are both traditional and homey in their restaurant. It’s a bit dark inside but it’s cozy. It’s also located right across the area where shuttle buses take you back to Yanagawa Station for free!
Because we were a group of 6, we were seated at one of the regular tables. If you want to go the tatami route, it might be better to break off into smaller groups as it looks like the tables are much smaller. Tall people might find it difficult to eat at this setting.
Flipping open the menu, we weren’t surprised to see that the price of the Steamed Eel Rice Set Meal was quite expensive. Eel is expensive in general, so the more pieces of eel you opt for, the more you will have to pay. The base price for a one-piece eel meal was at 1,800 yen! Regardless of how many pieces of eel you order, the rice portion and the sides stay the same. You get soup and some radish, plus some delicious tea.
We decided to go for the two-piece eel option, excited to get our fill of unagi since we all love it. When our orders arrived though, we were in for a surprise. More on that later. Let’s first talk about the soup. This clear soup contains eel liver, and it actually has a pretty clean aftertaste. Maybe I was expecting some sort of fishiness, but there was none of that. The soup is savory enough to stimulate your appetite and warm your stomach in preparation for the main meal.
After the soup, we went ahead and opened our magical boxes of amazing-smelling Yanagawa Steamed Eel Rice, only to find… Two 3-inch pieces of eel! Man, I honestly thought I was going to go home all unagi-ed out, but apparently not. I was definitely expecting more than this.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what the difference between this Steamed Eel Rice and the normal Unagi-Don is. Why is this version super expensive? Unagi-don is literally just sauced-up unagi or eel on plain steamed rice. Meanwhile, the Unagi no Seiromushi starts out with rice that is not yet fully cooked. They put it inside a bamboo box and line up some slices of grilled eel on top. Then they add in the unagi sauce and some bits of shredded egg. This all gets steamed until the rice has soaked up all that glorious unagi sauce and becomes fully cooked.
So I guess that means you’re not just paying for special grilled eel, you’re paying for the special rice as well.
I was honestly ready to feel disappointed by the small unagi serving, but when I dug in and got a taste of that rice, I suddenly entered a forgiving mood lol. The sauce they used here is their own family recipe, and it has some similar sweet-savory notes to the typical unagi sauce but with a smokier, lightly peppery flavor. The caramelized parts of the unagi contribute an added sweetness. The rice was sticky-fluffy-flavorful perfection. THE RICE WAS SO GOOD.
In Rokkyu, they use only domestically bred eel. They also only grill over charcoal so that explains the smoky flavor. I find the eel becomes even more delicious with the magical savory-lemony yuzu condiment they have on the table. I wanted to take it home haha! The eel was so small it was bound to be tender. I wish there was more to go around because there was so much more rice!
Overall, I can’t say that the experience of eating Yanagawa Steamed Eel Rice here at Rokkyu was not enjoyable. There’s probably some other place that serves better and bigger eel than this for the price, but do note that since fresh eel is limited in quantity, there’s bound to be a bit of premium anywhere. If you’ve tried one better, do let me know!
I will tell you one thing though: I was so delighted by the taste of the rice with all that juicy unagi sauce, to the point where I immediately searched for a recipe online. I came up with nothing. Is the recipe for the sauce in Unagi no Seiromushi some sort of well-kept Yanagawa secret? Or maybe I should try a different search term? I would really like to try.
Alien Ramen in Yanagawa!
And since we’re on the topic of Yanagawa specialties, I thought I’d briefly mention this super interesting, um, instant noodle “delicacy” they sell here. Maybe the rest of the world would call it a novelty, but in Yanagawa they call it the Alien Ramen. Apart from the normal eel we know, another of Yanagawa’s specialties is this eel-like fish called warasubo. You can see a drawing of them on the packaging of the Alien Ramen, with their fanged mouths and super tiny eyes.
Although the locals of Yanagawa enjoy these freshly caught from the Araike Sea and grilled, their appearance has earned them the monicker “Alien of Araike”. The artwork on the packaging of the Alien Ramen is just hilarious to me! The faces of those people!
My brother actually bought two variants from this line of instant noodles. The red one is called Nagi Ramen, or unagi flavored ramen. I forgot to taste it because of how riveted I was with the Alien Ramen haha! They basically go through the same process of cooking, and the only difference is their flavoring pack. Nothing like a foil of powder to remind you you’re eating “alien”.
Here’s what the noodles look like once cooked:
I admit I was a little taken aback by the Alien Ramen. The green soup isn’t very appetizing. I mean, I drink spinach soup but this hue of green is not very pretty looking. The good news is, it’s actually a lot better than I expected. I might’ve expected the worst lol. The soup has a savory fish flavor that’s not overpowering, and it clings to the noodles as if it’s clinging to dear life. It’s fairly enjoyable actually, but a little oily as well.
I haven’t tried warasuboso I can’t comment on whether the noodles tastes similar, but this reminds me a little of the fish soup my grandma used to make for us. It’s not bad by any means, but it won’t be the reason why I would rush back to Yanagawa.
I think you can pass on these instant noodles unless you’re really curious about them, in which case, be my guest. Just don’t pass on the Yanagawa Steamed Eel Rice. I do think it is as beautiful a trip for the tastebuds as punting down the canal was for the soul. Price aside, it is definitely something you should try at least once when you come to Yanagawa.
Look out for my Dazaifu post in a few days! In the meantime, watch how our day in Yanagawa and Dazaifu unfolded in this video:
28 Okinohatamachi, Yanagawa-shi, Fukuoka-ken 832-0065, Japan
Tel no: 0944-72-6177
Hours: 1030 to 1700 (Closed on Tuesdays)
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