The Jaw-Dropping Techniques of Kawatoyo Chefs
The video, taken at Kawatoyo, a Meiji style restaurant situated on the way to the Naritasan (Narita Mountain) Shinshoji Temple in Narita, Chiba, shows how the chefs prepare Japanese eel (Unagi) before cooking them.
There is a common saying among eel restaurant chefs that gives some insight into how difficult mastering the techniques behind their job is, it goes: “Three years of skewering, eight years of cutting, and a lifetime of grilling.”
In spite of the difficulty of this job, the chefs in the video make it look easy, and even enjoyable.
In just two minutes, one can easily understand how skilled the chefs at Kawatoyo are.
Be sure to follow along with the video as you read the article!
Grilled Eel, Narita’s Specialty
When most people think of Narita they think of eel. And it's no surprise either.
With its 60 eel restaurants Naritasan, Omotesando has become a popular attraction for both tourists and food lovers alike, and it is conveniently located just a 15 minute walk from the JR Narita Station.
Kawatoyo is a well-established shop in Narita, serving grilled eel since 1910. Crowded even on weekdays, part of its popularity is due to the show offered by its chefs working in front of diners. This can be seen in the video as well
The skillful maneuvering of tools and knives done on the restaurant's large wooden cutting board, catches the eyes of many tourists, who are impressed by the fascinating sight.
These are the steps to prepare the eel. Be sure to follow along with the video:
1. Nailing the eel to the board
2. Cutting it open with a knife
3. Gutting it
4. Boning it
5. Slicing it to proper size
Because of how difficult it is to perform this procedure both quickly and accurately, apprentices are usually relegated to applying the skewers.
Unlike other fish, eels must be killed just before preparing them as their flesh tends to spoil very quickly: so quickly that the speed at which the preparation work is done ends up influencing the taste of the final product.
In addition to that, raw eel blood is toxic, and while cooked preparations are safe to eat, handling and preparing the raw product requires great care on the chefs’ part.
Some Final Words on Narita Eel
On a normal weekday, the chefs at Kawatoyo prepare a staggering 400 eels for their customers, and this number doubles to a whopping 800 on weekends and holidays.
The taste of the grilled eels you can have in this wooden, old fashioned traditional Japanese shop is simply amazing.
There are various eel recipes and serving styles in Japanese cuisine: be it rolls, unagi sushi, eel served in traditional wooden boxes or on top of rice bowls.
Did you know that grilled eel cooking methods can vary from region to region in Japan?
In the East, Kanto-style eels are sliced open from the back, then steamed and only later grilled, making for a richer, more plump texture, while in the West it is more common to have them Kansai-style, following a method that focuses on fragrance and crispness by grilling the eels on their belly directly over a flame.
The best you can do is walk your way through Japan and find the style or unagi sauce you like the most.
And don’t forget that eels this delicious can only be prepared by skilled, seasoned professionals: do not try this at home!
【Address】Nakamachi386, Narita, Chiba, Japan, 286-0027
11 minutes walking from JR Narita station
11 minutes walking from Keisei Narita station
8.3 km from Narita International Airport (about 20 minutes)
3 km from Aeon Mall Narita (about 10 minutes)
2.5 km from Mega Don Quixote (about 8 minutes)
【Open】10 am to 5 pm (last order)
【Closures】None (subject to change)