Sea Eel, anago

 

As in the freshwater variation, sea eel is a cooked ingredient of sushi.  Called anago in Japanese, its characters mean “hole-child,” as they hide in nooks and holes in the sand during the day, coming out only at night to feed.  The freshwater cousin is better known in the United States, but the sea eel is the eel preferred by sushi houses in Japan.  Sea eel is a cooked ingredient of sushi and the all important sauce, called tsume, is also made by the chef – making it a great showcase of the chef’s taste preference and skills.

 

Maeda’s sea eel is poached so softly, it breaks down immediately once in your mouth.  The texture is very fine, much finer than that of the freshwater eel.  The sweet fat is lighter and gentler.   Tsume, the sauce, is made from the broth which the sea eel was poached.  To the broth, soy sauce, mirin, and some sugar among other things are added, and the simmering for a long period thickens the broth into a tsume.  After making the sushi in his hands, Maeda would brush the tsume on the sea eel just before serving it to you.  The sweet and sour aroma of tsume teases you as you bring the sushi to your mouth.  As the sea eel melts, it wraps around every grain of shari (sushi-rice), all seem to meet in a harmony of flavors, textures, and warmth.  It is also a great source of vitamin A.  Now available year-round, sea eel’s natural best season is spring and early summer.

 

“Anago has to melt in your mouth…but if it’s too soft, it will fall apart on the touch of chopstick or hand.  To make it just right, timing is very important during the poaching.  As in any living things, every sea eel is different, so I pay close attention and treat each of them differently.”  Maeda

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