June 5, 2020
What Does Eel Tastes Like? Learn Why People Love It
Are you curious about what does eel taste like? Stick around as we describe the answer below…
In Japanese cuisine, as well as most Asian cooking, the eel has found its way into a top position of popularity. However, if you are not too familiar with marine animals, you might mistake an eel for something else, like a snake, perhaps.
After all, both bear a similar slimy appearance. Despite its weird-looking face and its slippery body, did you know that eel is one of the most prized meats around the world?
Considered a delicacy and exotic food of sorts, many are keen to try this water-dwelling animal for themselves.
If you are tired of wondering what eel tastes like, we’re here to help. This article will discuss not only its origins but also delve into the different eel-based delicacies around the world.
What Is an Eel?
An eel is a type of teleost fish known for its wormlike body. Fully grown, eels can range from 10 centimeters to 3.5 meters. They are mostly free from scales, however, when they do have some on their bodies, they tend to be very small.
Though there is a wide range of eel species in existence, more than 800 in total, there are a limited number of edible kinds, namely the saltwater eel called anago and the freshwater eel called unagi.
Fun fact: most freshwater eels actually lay their eggs in seawater. However, as the eggs hatch, the fish naturally migrate to rivers and streams where they spend their time in maturation.
What Does an Eel Taste Like?
Now that you know where these eels come from, you might be wondering how they taste.
To be able to fully capture the taste they impart, it’s essential to consider the type of water source they came from.
Besides affecting the flavor, the water source also affects the texture.
Unagi, commonly found in Japanese and other Asian restaurants, is what most people associate with the taste of eel.
It has a dark gray appearance that almost borders on black. Moreover, its tail is somewhat rounder in comparison.
Meanwhile, the anago tends to take on a much browner hue with some white specks or dots on its side. The same goes for its dorsal fin. It generally has a pointier tail as well.
With this in mind, chefs say that unagi meat tends to be richer and fattier. This can be attributed to the high-fat content it has as well as the number of vitamins and minerals in it, such as vitamins A, B1, B2, D, E, and calcium.
It is normally found in restaurants as part of their grilled specialties, particularly with sweet soy sauce, otherwise known as kabayaki, or simply seasoned with salt and served with some wasabi on the side, also known as shiroyaki.
Anago, on the other hand, pales in comparison to unagi. Though it can be bland next to the richness of unagi, anago takes on a light, delicate, and even sweeter flavor profile that’s still versatile for a variety of dishes.
Because of its ability to take on flavors, it is best served after being simmered. However, it can also be prepared as sushi or as a roll.
Eel-Based Dishes Around the Globe
Eels are widely consumed around the world, but most popularly in Japan and other Asian countries like China and Korea.
As a matter of fact, its popularity and demand in the market made it the number one fish in the land of the rising sun.
The demand and increase in consumption may be attributed to the belief that those who eat unagi during a midsummer day of the ox will face the sweltering summer months in safety.
This belief stemmed from Hiraga Gennai, a doctor who declared the practice effective in keeping illnesses and misfortunes at bay. Today, there is an extensive range of eel delicacies.
Apart from the aforementioned dishes, unagi is also cooked as unadon, a type of donburi rice meal in which eels cooked kabayaki style (or grilled in sweet soy sauce) are topped on fresh, hot rice. It may also be served tempura-style by coating it in batter or frying it.
In Spain, smaller types of eel or baby eels are used to make a dish called angula. A serving of this normally costs $100. Typically eaten as tapas, the angula dish is comprised of baby eels, olive oil, garlic, and chili pepper.
In England, eels are consumed in a jellied mixture. They are seasoned and boiled until soft and then left to cool, thus achieving the jelly-like consistency.
The Bottom Line
Attempting to eat eel for the first time will certainly be a thrilling experience. Apart from the artistry that comes with it, its unusual taste and texture will surely elevate your taste for the finer things in life.
You might just find yourself wanting to eat it again and again. Hope you enjoyed our explanation of what does eel taste like. Cheers!
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