Even the die-hard fish and seafood lovers have second thoughts about trying eel for the first time. Why?
Well, you must admit that eel looks kind of scary and snake-like, with its elongated slimy body and big round eyes. One thing is certain – if you share this opinion, you are not alone!
This is why I decided to share with you a few things I learned trying eel, (what does eel taste like) and hopefully this can change your mind.
Don’t hesitate, just go for it!
I have tried eel a few times in restaurants, but I was hesitant to cook it for my family. When I first decided to prepare eel for them, my two sons weren’t so thrilled about it.
Unfortunately, as I prepared it from scratch, they saw the unappealing, unskinned eel on my kitchen counter and they were appalled by the look of it.
Neither they nor my husband are big on sea food, but they all absolutely adore my cooking, so I was determined to blow their minds with this dish!
Are you wondering what happened with the infamous meal I prepared?
Well, it is sufficient to say that the whole pot was gone in less than 15 minutes! 🙂
My boys do have a good appetite, but it is the taste and texture of eel that sealed the deal for all of them.
Cost and Value – Is it Worth it?
I remember when I was a girl, my father used to go fishing quite often. At that time we weren’t thinking about eating eel, as it wasn’t a popular idea back in the days.
Anyway, my father went on a fishing trip and came back home the next day, visibly ecstatic. He told us that he had somehow caught an eel that apparently went astray.
Of course, both my mother and I were scared of it at first, but my dad who was a longtime fisherman, prepared eel for us in a southern way, which meant deep frying it until it had crunchy skin and soft texture.
That is the story on how I tried eel for the first time, but if it weren’t for the lucky catch, we wouldn’t be able to afford it then.
Of course, times have changed. The cost of eel, on the other hand, didn’t.
Eel is not that cheap, so the first thing that comes to mind is: “Is such a strange-looking fish worth this amount of money? It better taste like the most luxurious fish in the world!”
However, the brave ones who have tried eel ensure us that eel is a true specialty amongst sea fish, which I wholeheartedly confirm. My husband and sons unwillingly admitted they were wrong about eel. I knew they would love it!
Get to know the difference
There are different types of eel, but the 2 most notable ones are the freshwater and saltwater eels. They are especially important for us chefs as they vary in texture. The saltwater eels have firmer skin and flesh, so they are appropriately cheaper than the freshwater ones.
If you do have a chance to buy freshwater eel, I recommend it only because it has slightly softer meat with less fishy aroma.
I personally tend to go for the freshwater ones whenever I can. However, if you choose to buy a saltwater eel, you will not go wrong with it.
The most important part is the cooking, not the type of eel you have.
The Taste and the Texture
So, what does eel taste like?
Whatever the type you choose, you cannot go wrong with eel as they taste amazing.
The taste of eel meat is light, yet sweet, and the texture is soft but firm enough so you can have a nice chew on it.
Some say it is kind of like salmon, lobster or octopus meat, but more delicate and tasteful.
When I tried it for the first time, to my childish palate it tasted somewhat like catfish, but with a stronger aroma. A huge plus for me was that eels have no bones except the spine which is removed before the cooking.
So, for those of you with younger kids, trust me when I tell you they will absolutely love it!
Cooking and preparing eel
What is also great about eel is that the meat is amazingly absorbent with sauces and seasoning. That is the reason why eel can be cooked in a variety of ways. This is probably the reason why eel is the most popular fish to eat in Japan.
It actually became so popular that it’s now an endangered species because of overcooking and overfishing. Eel is becoming more and more popular in the rest of the world, so more and more people want to try out their cooking skills with it.
However, if you want to cook eel you must first skin and clean it, and that is the hard part. You are going to need a good quality sharp knife and a cutting board. I found this particularly difficult as eel is famous for having a hard skin.
If you need help, go ahead and watch the video below for more in-depth explanation. It helped me a lot!
Popular international recipes
There are plenty of ways to cook eel. One that is more common in Europe is jelly eel, which is basically broiled and seasoned eel. Once it reaches the desired consistency, it is left to cool down, creating a jelly-like texture. It’s best to prepare in high-quality broiler pans.
- In Japan, eels are mostly cooked as kabayaki, where the eel is cut open like a butterfly, marinated and then grilled (recommendations for charcoal grill). I personally tried this dish when I prepared eel for my boys.
- In Spain there is the famous angula dish. It’s a dish made with baby eels and it’s abnormally expensive. It is sautéed with olive oil, garlic, and chili pepper. A serving of this dish costs around a staggering $100 and also affects the population of eels since the fingerlings are consumed even before they have the chance to grow and reproduce.
- Another popular way to prepare eel is smoking it. It’s very easy and therefore it is widespread. You can make it easily in your home.
Further Reading: Find Out Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon? Everything About It Here!
We want to eat delicious food, but it’s important for it to be healthy as well.
I, having to cook for three men, find this particularly valuable when it comes to eel, because it’s rich and tasteful, but healthy.
Luckily, eel has a number of health benefits. It has a lot of nutritional value, it is rich with important and valuable vitamins and it even speeds up your metabolism.
In Asia, where eel is basically staple food, it is even used as an aphrodisiac, for it increases stamina, libido and elevates the level of dopamine.
Sound amazing, right? No wonder eel is expensive!
Some words of encouragement for you!
If you are now brave enough to go on an adventure of preparing and cooking this delicious (but expensive) fish, don’t hesitate.
It’s worth every penny!
There are plenty of recipes that fit well with your family’s taste and preferences, and whichever you choose, rest assured that it will be tasty and healthy.
If you want to prepare eel for some guests that enjoy exotic cuisines, feel free to go a bit overboard and make them astonished with your cooking with a recipe you would not normally go for a regular day. 🙂
Good luck and have a nice meal!