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Unagi sushi (eel hand roll) with unagi, sesame seeds, and cucumber on a blue plate.
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5 from 5 votes

Unagi Sushi (Eel Hand Roll)

Unagi Sushi (Eel Hand Roll) is a popular sushi roll featuring Japanese eel cooked in a rich umami sauce, then rolled in seasoned sushi rice and nori. This simple hand roll comes together in less than 10 minutes and is perfect for beginners making sushi for the first time.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 4
Calories: 430kcal

Ingredients

Unagi Roll

  • cup Japanese short grain rice
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • tablespoon sushi vinegar
  • 5 oz unagi
  • 2 tablespoon unagi (eel) sauce homemade or store-bought
  • 1 small cucumber julienned cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoon kaiware daikon daikon sprouts, optional
  • 5 nori sheets cut in half
  • sesame seeds

Unagi Sauce

  • 6 tablespoon Mirin
  • 6 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoon Granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoon sake

Instructions

Rice

  • Stovetop instructions - Place rice in a saucepan and rinse the rice in the sink until the water runs clear, then drain. Combine washed rice and filtered water in a medium saucepan. Bring the rice to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.
    1½ cup Japanese short grain rice, 2 cups filtered water
  • Rice cooker instructions - Place rice in the electric rice cooker pot and rinse the rice in the sink until the water runs clear, then drain. Combine rice and filtered water in the pot and cook per the rice cooker directions.
  • Make sushi rice - Transfer to rice to a bowl and season with seasoned rice vinegar. Fluff and fan the rice until cool.
    1½ tablespoon sushi vinegar

Homemade Unagi Sauce

  • Mix ingredients - While rice is cooking, add mirin, sugar, and sake to a sauce pan on medium heat. Whisk the ingredients. Once the mixture reaches a boil, turn down the heat to low and add the soy sauce and whisk. Simmer for 10 minutes and occasionally stir.
    6 tablespoon Mirin, 3 tablespoon Granulated sugar, 2 tablespoon sake, 6 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Cool and store - Once the sauce thickens to the desired consistency, remove from heat. If it's too thick, mix in an extra tablespoon of soy sauce and mirin to thin the sauce. Allow to cool.

Unagi Roll

  • Prepare and cook unagi - Place the unagi fillet skin side down on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Brush the unagi with unagi sauce and place on the middle rack. Place on the middle rack and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350° F.
    5 oz unagi, 2 tablespoon unagi (eel) sauce
  • Broil - Broil for an additional 2 minutes, until bubbling and caramelized. Remove from the oven. Let cool and slice into ½ to ¾-inch strips.
  • Assemble hand rolls - Cut nori sheets in half widthwise. Take one piece of nori and place it in your hand, rough side up. Add a layer of rice to about a third of the nori sheet that is in your hand, then layer in cucumber, daikon sprouts, and unagi strips. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, then roll inward and form a cone. Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce.
    1 small cucumber, 5 nori sheets, sesame seeds, 2 tablespoon kaiware daikon

Notes

Storage

This unagi roll is best enjoyed immediately or within 1 day of making. Store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. The key is to keep the moisture locked in so the roll doesn't dry out. This crunchy roll recipe does not stand up well to freezing.

Top tips

  • When you are cooking the rice, make sure you don't add too much water or the rice will become mushy (we want it firm).
  • Be careful to not overcook the rice or it will be too hard and not pliable enough to use for sushi.
  • Be sure to let the rice cool before using it, or it will become rubbery on the nori.
  • If you are using a rice cooker and the outside of the rice gets crispy and hard, use a fork to fluff the rice and add moisture back into those crispy bits.
  • If you are having a hard time getting the nori to stick to itself when you roll the sushi, you can smash a few grains of rice where the nori needs to stick to itself.

Nutrition

Calories: 430kcal | Carbohydrates: 80g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 45mg | Sodium: 1734mg | Potassium: 357mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 1473IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 2mg