‘Energy boosting’ eel drink latest attempt to beat the heat

The Associated Press

It’s the hottest season of the year, and that means it’s eel season. So, bottoms up!

A canned drink called Unagi Nobori, or Surging Eel, made by Japan Tobacco Inc. has hit stores just ahead of the annual eel-eating season, company spokesman Kazunori Hayashi said. “It’s mainly for men who are exhausted by the summer heat,” he said of Japan’s first mass-produced eel drink.

Many Japanese believe eating eel boosts stamina in hot weather.

The fizzy, yellow-colored drink contains extracts from the head and bones of eel and five vitamins — A, B1, B2, D and E — contained in the fish.

The Japanese particularly like to eat eel on traditional eel days. The first was July 24 and the second one is next Tuesday.

Demand for eel is so high that the nation has been hit by scores of eel fraud cases, including a recent high-profile incident in which a ministry publicly scolded two companies for mislabeling eel imported from China as domestic.

The eel involved in recent scandals was prepared in a popular “kaba-yaki” style, in which it is broiled and covered with a sweet sauce. The ¥140 drink costs about one-tenth as much as broiled eel but has a similar flavor.

Eel extract is also used in cookies and pies made in Japan’s biggest eel-producing town, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.