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What does Eel taste like?

Eel is one of the most popular members of the seafood category. If you’re someone who is new to exploring seafood, especially sushi, then Eel is the way to go. You might be nervous as you take your taste buds for an adventurous journey while surfing the seafood menu. But don’t you worry, once you have a taste of this delicacy, you are going to be hooked!

Eel is popular all around the world. It is a commonly used protein in the Japanese cuisine. Various preparations of the fish are quite popular in the Chinese cuisine.

It’s a very expensive delicacy in Hong Kong. The European Eel and other freshwater eels are consumed all around Europe and also in the United States and other places. The jellied eel is a traditional east London snack which was most popular during the world war.

The Spanish cuisine is famous for  Angulas which are prepared from elver or young eels. The Maori tribe of New Zealand consumes the New Zealand Longfin Eel as a staple.

Eels are quite a prized dish in the Italian cuisine as well. Smoked eel is considered a delicacy in countries like England, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and Poland.

Elvers, as mentioned above are baby eels which were often consumed upon frying and were a cheap dish in the United Kingdom, but unfortunately the number and availability of elvers have decreased drastically due to excessive fishing and degrading environment as a result they are the most expensive delicacy in the UK at present. But no cuisine appreciates the Eel as well as the Japanese cuisine.

Is it a Snake? Is it an Eel? What is it?

Eels might not be the best looking fishes out of all. If you are someone who suffers from Ophidiophobia i.e the fear of snakes, then you should brace yourself because Eels more or less resemble underwater snakes. But if you take a closer look you’ll realize that it really isn’t the case.

Eels are elongated fishes reaching from 5cm (2.0 inches) in the one jawed eel up to 4 meters ( 13 feet) in the slender giant moray. These slender fishes have a lack of pelvic fins and in some species they even lack a pectoral fin which greatly contributes to their snake-like appearance.

Eels are found residing in sweet water. This type is popularly known as Unagi. But don’t confuse it with its salt water cousin Anago in Japanese.

Everything about the taste of Eel

It is quite hard to describe the taste of something to someone if they haven’t tasted it by themselves. It’s like describing the color red to a blind person. However, we can give you a detailed idea by comparison so that you are well prepared for your sushi experience.

Unagi is a highly nutritious protein. If cooked properly it gives off a sweet, firm and flaky taste almost like Bass. It should be soft and gentle on the palate without a strong and fishy after taste which makes it the most suitable option for sushi. The texture of the meat is soft yet firm and has a nice chew on it.

The salt water eel also known as amago is slightly less rich and more on the chewy side, but has a similar soft texture and sweet taste. It has tougher skin and firmer meat. But both the salt water and the sweet water fish taste good. It’s texture might throw you off guard initially, but once you get over that you’ll start to appreciate the taste.

Some might say that the taste of eel tastes bland. But that is not necessarily the case. The taste is actually very light which can be compared to squid meat. But eel seems to have a punch of sweetness to it.

It’s taste can be compared to a whole lot of things. The people who are most experienced with exotic foods might compare the taste of eel with the taste of snakes and frogs. But don’t let that revolt you. Those who have a slightly less experience associate it’s taste with chicken.

According to food critics the closest comparison for eel meat would be Salmon. Not smoked salmon, the raw one. But Eel has the ultimate similarity with catfish meat.

What type of Eels can you eat?

Currently the eel is quite an expensive delicacy. No matter how much the price is it is quite popular all around the world.The most commonly consumed eel is the sweet water eel.

Due to it’s agreeable taste. The salt water eel doesn’t lag behind and is quite popular as well. There are different customs, culture, traditions in different countries and regions.

There is a variation in demographic as well. The lifestyle, socio economic status and geographic conditions influence the methods of cooking. Different regions use different tools and procedures. As a result you can find a whole lot of variations of the same dish.

These variations have given us several delicacies which makes it quite difficult to choose from. Here are a few appetizing eel dishes from all around the globe.

Jellied Eel

image credit: detik.com

Jellied eels are one of the most popular dishes in the United Kingdom. This particular dish originated in 18th century England. It was most popular in the east end region of London. Jellied Eel is prepared by deboning and chopping up the eel flesh. It is boiled in an aspic stock.

Powdered or sheet gelatin is added to the stock and left to cool down. After several hours of cooling it forms a jelly like texture. It is served cold and is eaten as a snack. It tastes quite salty.

Like a fish jelly.The eel flesh has a slippery texture quite opposite to the traditional flaky and firm texture of other preparations of eel. It has quite an acquired taste, but it is quite popular as a snack in Europe. What a fishy snack!

Paling in’t groen( Eels in the green)

Image Credit: .junedarville.com

This green dish originated from the Flemish population. It is popular among the people residing in areas near the river Scheldt. The river runs between Antwerp and Dendermonde. The name is in Dutch and it translates to ‘eel fish in green sauce’. It is prepared by gutting the fish and cutting it up into small pieces. A wide selection of herbs are freshly chopped and added to the broth.

The choice of herbs may include oregano, sage, thyme, parsley, cilantro, coriander and a whole lot of flavour-full green herbs. Onions, cornflour, salt and butter are added for some extra taste. The dish is very aromatic given the varieties of herbs used. The eel fish tastes soft with a hint of sweet after taste. It has a rich flavour. Eel being an oily feels adds to the richness of the overall dish.

Unagi

image credit: guide.michelin.com

Unagi is a Japanese word which translates to “fresh water eel”.It is a very common choice of protein used in Japanese cooking.. Unagi is a very sensitive dish and it takes a huge amount of skill to be prepared. Grilling the fish removes the fatiness under the skin which provides a soft yet chewy texture.

A sauce made of rice wine and soy sauce is lightly brushed over the soft meat to add to the flavour. The soy sauce and rice wine give the dish a salty and tangy taste, whereas the fluffy texture of the fish is very absorbent for sauces. The proper cooking process keeps the slight sweetness hint of the fish intact.

More about Unagi

The most commonly consumed type of Eel is Unagi. It must be properly cooked before it is eaten as raw eel flesh and eel blood is toxic for humans. Usually the fish is skinned and grilled. After cooking till the meat is soft and flaky it is cut up in small portions.

A sweet soy sauce reduction is used as dressing. Served on rice balls, the dish is called Nigiri. Amago on the other hand is either deep fried or simmered.The taste varies according to the method chosen for cooking however, irrespective of the way how you cook it does taste delectable.

History of Unagi

The Edo sushi menu did not initially contain eel as a staple.!9th century Tokyo, formerly known as Edo, was famous for mouthwatering fast food.The menu included tempura, sushi, soba and much more. But the star of them all was Unagi. Unagi is such a difficult dish to prepare that the ameture sushi chefs wouldn’t dare to prepare it.

The professional unagi chefs would put their heart, soul and of course their hard earned skill to the dish which renders it incomparable.  Thus unagi rose to its fame. The japanese population even has a special day where they unanimously eat unagi. The midsummer day of the Ox (doyo no ushi no hi).

Kabayaki

Kabayaki is one of the most conventional preparations of unagi. The fish split along its belly and gutted. It is de-boned and then butterflied and cut into square shaped strips. It is then marinated in sweet soy sauce. It is then grilled and cooked to perfection.

One can also find canned products that are labeled kabayaki. But as expected the fresh kabayaki tastes better. The canned products seem to have a more dry and cardboard type taste. 

Unadon

The eel kabayaki is often served on top of a bowl of rice, and called Unadon, the fancier form of which is the Unaju, placed inside a tiered lacquered box called Jubako. It is also torn up and mixed up evenly with rice to make hitsumabushi which is enjoyed especially in the Nagoya area.

The Kabayaki flavour is quite similar to the Teriyaki flavour. So if you have ever had teriyaki chicken then you can imagine kabayaki to have a similar taste. But with a more chewy texture. The fatty flesh of the unagi is super juicy. The glaze of the sauce creates a captivating aroma which adds to the flavours.

Unagi by itself has a subtle flavour but along with the sauce it attains a sweet and salty taste which creates the umami flavour.

Jangeo gui

Grilled eel fish is known as Jangeo gui. It is a popular dish in South Korea. The eel being a fatty fish when grilled turns soft and juicy. The texture is quite agreeable. 

Mien-Luon

It is a Vietnamese delicacy which is most popular in northern Vietnam, especially the Hanoi region. It is a cellophane soup with deep fried or stir fried eel. It can be garnished with spring onion, bean sprouts and coriander. Deep fried eel would have a  more dry and chewy taste. But the sweetness and the firmness of the eel meat would be enhanced upon frying.

Elvers

image credit: marvelouschef.com

In the United Kingdom In the river severn a huge bore occurs called the severn bore which brings up small baby eel fishes also known as elvers. They are quite delectable. The elvers have a unique delicate flavour. Their taste is like a crossover between lobster and scallop but more lighter intensity.

Smoked eel

image credit: beertourism.com

Smoked eel is considered a delicacy in many countries like the Netherlands, Chzech Republic, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Sweden. It is a more healthier version of cooking the fish.

Nutritional Facts

A serving of eel contains 184 calories. Though it varies upon the method of preparation. It contains 11.6 grams of fat, 126 mg of cholesterol and 2.4 grams of saturated fat. So the number indicates that the eel is quite a fatty fish. It contains 18.4 grams of protein and 0.2 gram of omega 3. Which is good for the heart.

Why is Eel Good For the Body?

Eel is highly nutritious, rich in protein and calcium which helps in maintaining strong bones. This delicious fish contains a high amount of phosphorus which maintains the pH level of the body as well as aids in digestion. It detoxifies the body through urination and also helps in metabolism and nutrient absorption.

Eel is also rich in fat absorbent vitamins such as Vitamin-A,D,E and also water soluble vitamins like Vitamin-B1,B2,B12 which help in prevention of deficiency diseases.

It also contains a high amount of omega 3 which prevents cholesterol accumulation and keeps the heart healthy. It reduces the chance of developing arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

Other benefits of Eel

Upon research it was found that eel meat is one of nature’s aphrodisiacs. It is common in Japan for older men and women to include eel meat in their daily diet in order to increase their stamina. The high omega 3 content increases libido, sexual performance and drive. The L-arginine present in eel meat fixes erection problems and maintains duration. It is quite evident why eel is so popular.

Eel meat can be poisonous

Eel meat can be lethal if eaten raw. Eel blood is poisonous. A little amount of eel blood is enough to kill a person if ingested. Their blood contains toxic proteins which causes muscle cramps and paralysis. Worst case scenario would include the stoppage of heart function resulting in death. Thus eel must always be cooked before eating. 

Some Facts About The Eel Fish

  • Eels can be known as several names such as Shortfin eel, longfin eel, european eel, american eel, japanese eel, african eel
  • Eel meat is gray in colour but turns white upon cooking.
  • Eel meat is quite expensive. In Hong Kong eel meat costs 1000HKD(128.28$) per kg and the prices may soar up to 5000HKD per kg.
  • Eels are carnivores.
  • Eels are considered an endangered species at the moment due to humans polluting rivers and excessive hunting of eels and eel fries.

Final Thoughts

Eel is one of the most expensive and one of the most delicious fishes out there. Though there is no chance of having it raw there are a significant number of delicacies to choose from. I hope this article has helped to provide you with an idea of how Eel tastes like.

So what are you waiting for? Order yourself some eel!

The FAQs About eel taste

What does raw eel taste like?

Raw eel should taste like salmon but has a more similar texture like catfish meat. It is extremely poisonous and can cause death. Thus raw eel must not be ingested.

Why should you never eat eel?

Our food choices depend on our age, social setting, traditions and past experiences. Eel can be a tricky choice of food. If you are someone who does not appreciate the taste and smell of fish then eel meat might not be for you.

Are eels good to eat?

The taste of eel depends on the method of cooking. But it’s light and firm meat with a hint of sweetness is quite appetizing. With the right combination of sauces and garnishes, eel meet is definitely good to eat.

Does electric eel taste good?

The meat of electric eel is sweet. Some compare the taste of it with lobsters. Others say it tastes more like octopus or catfish. So the Simple answer would be yes! Eel does taste good.

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Thanks for reading!

I am Rubab Sikandar, and I have done MPhil in food and nutrition. I am a professional dietician and content writer. I always try to deliver the best content to the readers. It's my passion to write on medical, health and fitness. Sharing is caring so; I always share what I learned in my academic career.

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