Some recipes have names that might seem a little misleading, if not downright off-putting: Frogmore stew, a stew not actually made with frogs, is one example, as is the equally amphibian-free toad in the hole.
Welsh rabbit (or rarebit) is also a perfectly harmless dish of toast with cheese sauce without a bit of rabbit meat. This eel sauce is also such a recipe. If you clicked on the recipe and wondered how to make an eel sauce, then we have to disappoint you. While something like that may exist out there somewhere, you won’t learn how to make it here.
Instead, you get something from a recipe developer Jaime Shelbert describes it as “a sweet, thickened soy sauce.” She goes on to say, “Its sweet and salty flavor profile makes it a versatile accompaniment to a variety of Japanese dishes.” As for the taste, Shelbert says that eel sauce is similar to hoisin or teriyaki sauce, although it doesn’t have the strong, almost molasses-like flavor of the former.
Gather your ingredients for eel sauce
You only need a few ingredients to make this sauce. First, you need sugar – plain old granulated sugar. You also use soy sauce (tamari can be substituted) and mirin. Shelbert notes that she sticks to just three ingredients to “[keep] it’s simple and classic,” but she does say sake can be added to it. You may want to use this ingredient to replace some (or all) of the mirin.
Combine the ingredients in a pan
Mix the ingredients for the eel sauce in a saucepan. While the amounts provided here make about 1 cup of sauce (sugar loses volume as it dissolves, plus some of the liquid boils away), you can easily make a smaller or larger amount simply by combining equal amounts of all three ingredients. If you can’t find a measuring cup or spoon, no problem. Pour the liquids into a shot glass, a teacup, a bottle cap…it doesn’t matter as long as you reach the magic 1:1:1 ratio (or at least approximate).
Cook the eel sauce
Turn the burner to medium-high and heat the sauce, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Let the sauce come to a boil and keep it on the boil for a minute (keep stirring as well). Turn the heat to low and cook the eel sauce for another 10 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Shelbert notes that the sauce should reduce by about a quarter in volume, so if you’re good at that sort of thing, use this as a guideline.
Cool and bottle the eel sauce
Let the sauce cool for a few minutes while you decide what to do with it. As Shelbert notes, “The sauce will continue to thicken to a honey-like consistency as it cools.” You can use it right away or put it in a jar or bottle in the fridge for later use.
Whatever to do with your eel sauce, you can of course cover your grilled eel with it, as this is the traditional use from which it takes its name. (Bet you were wondering when we were going to explain that.)
Not a fan of grilled eel? It’s probably just as good, considering American eel is scarce these days. However, Shelbert suggests that you could also use eel sauce “as a seasoning for sushi, as a marinade for meat and vegetables, as a topping for meat or tofu. [or on] vegetable and rice bowls.”