All about eel, the snake from the oceans

It’s like a snake but doesn’t slither…what is it?

It is not common to see the fish we are going to deal with at the supermarket. It is not the fish you can easily find, if you don’t deliberately go to a fish seller. It is a delicacy, even though its consumption is not widely spread, or, at least, it is not so globalized. This fish is eel.

What kind of fish is it?

Unlike other oval-shaped fishes, like salmon, tuna or sea bream, eel is more similar to a snake swimming into ocean. It looks like a ribbon actually and is barely seen as the majority of eels are nocturnal and also live in holes. Its size can range from 5 cm to even 4 m and its weight can reach 110 kg! Can you imagine? It must be very unmanageable when trying to kill it to cook it, since it is also very slick and thus, tends to squirm a lot. You should be very fond of it to have such a patience to deal with it!

Eel-based dishes around the world

Eel is a fish more commonly cooked and eaten than we think. While today it is a very special dish, in ancient times it represented a poor one, made with the main cheap ingredient fishermen could get from the sea.

It is largely consumed in Japan, where unagi (that is the freshwater eel) is a common ingredient to prepare kabayaki, a recipe where eel is skewered and dipped into a soy-sauce base sauce and then grilled or boiled. It is also used to prepare unadon, a plate consisting in steamed rice covered with grilled eels fillets. We can say that Japan is the country where eel is mostly eaten. Nonetheless, Korean, Chinese and American cuisines too include eel. In the southern hemisphere, eel is a traditional Maori food but this doesn’t exclude that Europe cooks eel in different ways as well. In northern Europe, for example in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, smoked eel is considered as a delicacy. In the Basque country eel is prepared by sautéing it in olive oil and garlic.


Image credits by Boogies with Fish, released under Creative Commons license.

Nutritional values of eel

Eel is a largely recommendable fish to eat. Low in sodium and calories, it is rich in Vitamins B12 and A and phosphorus. Though, it is not for people who have high cholesterol.

What about eel in Italian cusine?

Italy certainly can’t miss among the countries that transforms eel into something whose taste you can never help. Fished and cooked in Sardinia, eels are also fished in the Bolsena Lake (in the region of Lazio), but above all in the Valli di Comacchio, in the region of Emilia Romagna. Indeed, a typical dish of the city of Ferrara in Emilia Romagna region, cooked on special occasions, is the anguilla ammarinata (marinate eel). Eel is cut into pieces, then these pieces are skewered, grilled to be then marinated into a mix of salt, vinegar and laurel leaves.

Another specialty of the same city is the anguilla alla ferrarese (Ferrara style eel). It is very simple to cook, but it acquires a savoury taste and such a soft consistency that it turns into a fish that melts in your mouth.

After sautéing garlic and onions in a pan, you just have to add tomato sauce, salt, pepper and an inch of water and let it cook for 15 minutes. Then, add pieces of eel and leave it to cook for half an hour.

Curious to taste it? Just rush to your trusted fish seller!

A couple of original eel recipes

Recipes kindly selected by Lido delle Nazioni - Ferrara. Thank you guys!

Sources - Prelibatezze ferraresi - Eel - Fish, eel, mixed species, cooked, dry heat - Eel, food

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