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Friday, July 27, 2012

Food makers offer substitutes as eel prices soar


Amid the rise in eel prices, some food makers have come up with substitutes people can try this summer on Friday, the traditional "eel-eating day" in late July when the delicacy is consumed as a ritual to ward off the heat.

News photo
Eel feel: Ryozo Shiraishi, chairman of Japan Seaweed Foods Laboratory Co., shows the firm's eellike products at his office in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. KYODO

In the case of Japan Seaweed Foods Laboratory Co., based in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, the firm developed its own type of "eel" by baking a special paste made of ground pollack, tofu and "okara," or pulp generated in the process of making tofu. For the skin, the firm used boiled "konbu" (seaweed).

"The most difficult part was to imitate the texture of eel as well as the half-transparent look of its skin," said Ryozo Shiraishi, chairman of the firm.

Development of the original product began in 2007 in response to customers who said that real eel dishes were becoming expensive and that they wanted something similar but more affordable.

Shiraishi said the company received inquiries from restaurants that have tried using saury or conger dishes as alternatives to eel.

Meanwhile, sweets maker Kozakuraya Kazukiyo in Nagoya came up with a product made of sweet bean paste that deceptively appears to be a traditional bowl of eel on rice.

The firm created the eel-dish sweet last year to promote another Japanese pastry traditionally eaten on eel day.

The eel dish sweet became so popular that they decided to market it again this year.

"We hope that our eel sweet will add some fun to eel-eating day," said Takashi Ito of Kozakuraya Kazukiyo.

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