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Olympic Eating a Fishy Experience

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Jim prepares to taste eel for the very first time.
NAGANO — Olympic competition sure makes a body hungry! So what do you eat? There are plenty of options, some familiar, more not! WRAL'sJim Paynesampled some of the local cuisine.

For over 100 years, one restaurant has served Nagano, smack in the middle of downtown. Like most Japanese restaurants, this one specializes in just one dish, eel.

The Japanese believe the eel has healing power that gives you strength and rejuvenates. There's even a special day set aside to honor eel and everyone eats it. On this day, so would Jim.

Eel filets are put on skewers, then cooked across a special oven. Occasionally it is dipped into a marinade of sweet rice wine mixed with soy sauce and sugar. Along with the meal, Jim ordered shrimp tempura and rice.

After a brief word of thanks for everyone who made the meal, it was time to break out the chopsticks and say, "hello eel!" The eel tastes fantastic. Along with the eel came a sample of spicy beans and crispy, pickled vegetables. And yes, the soup-- a delicacy made of the eel's stomach. It tasted like liver, but not as livery.

After a bite of apple for dessert and a lesson in chopstick etiquette, it's time to learn about the rice gods. Japanese tell children that seven gods live inside each grain of rice. It's a friendly but forceful way to get them to clear their bowls. Wasting two grains means wasting 14 gods.

Four generations of one family made the eel meal fit for an Olympic champion. After eating it all, the gods are safe from the WRAL crew.

The average person may not be safe from some of the other common Japanese dishes. Listed on another restaurant menu, locusts fried with a special sesame sauce, thinly sliced horse meat and raw river fish soaked in miso for two months. Tune in at 11:00 p.m. each night during the Olympics for Jim Payne's live reports from Nagano.


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