By Chihiro Kosugi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterNARITA, Chiba — At first, it looks like a piece of regular koppe-pan, a kind of long bread roll that resembles a hot dog bun.When you take a bite, a savory aroma accompanies the delicately soft texture of the bread. Then you find yourself biting into several pieces of grilled eel dressed with sweetened soy sauce, something usually served on rice.
This unagi-pan, or eel-stuffed bread, is the most popular item at Shimoda Koseido Pan-chaya, a cafe along the main approach to Naritasan Shinshoji temple in Narita, Chiba Prefecture.
What you get for ¥615 is broiled unbasted eel, sweetened soy sauce, garlic paste, bechamel sauce, pickled gourd and nori wrapped in dough that is baked into a plump bread. The spicy flavor of sansho pepper and the crunchy texture of the chopped gourd create an interesting combination.
“I don’t just put eel inside bread,” said owner Shingo Shimoda, 47.
“You can appreciate all the flavors found in unaju,” he added, referring to the dish in which eel is served atop rice in a rectangular lacquered box.
Shops along the main approach to Shinshoji are said to have started offering eel to pilgrims in the hope that the nutritious ingredient could help ease their fatigue from traveling.
Shimoda released his signature item in 2013. He was inspired to develop it by staff members of a TV program who wondered if he could combine eel and bread when they visited Narita to produce a program featuring the temple. He spent a month developing unagi-pan by experimenting the fillings and texture. Now, 50 to 60 pieces of the product sell out every day.
Shimoda’s shop originally started in 1971 as an eel restaurant run by his grandfather Masasuke. The restaurant closed in 2012, when Shimoda, who trained in France after graduating from high school, was running a cafe-bakery called Pan-chaya at Narita’s health and welfare center. The closure prompted him to move his cafe to the current place to make a fresh start under the new name. Shimoda Koseido comes from the name of a traditional Chinese medicine shop run by his ancestors.
Shimoda Koseido Pan-chaya
Open: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (cafe closes at 5 p.m.)
Address: 551 Kamicho, Narita, Chiba Prefecture
Phone: (0476) 22-0396
English menu available
To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&d