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live eels and eel recipes?

Hi Chowhounds,

A friend visiting from Germany expressed interest in eating eels. I've called around for fresh ones, but none of the Asian markets carry them live and non one's English is good enough to tell me when they're in season.

Thanks for any knowledge and advice (and if I have to get it frozen, I know to go to Hawaii or HK market in SGV).

Finally, thanks for any eel recipes!

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  1. Why not look for smoked eel, which is more commonly available and likely to be what your German friend would expect. Preparing live eel is not an easy task...

    1. The host of "Hook, Line and Dinner" on The Cooking Channel was using live eels just the other day that he got at a place that doubled as a bait shop.

      That was in New England though.

        1. If you have a good live eel it needs nothing other than a little salt & pepper and a grill. At most I would rub a tiny bit of sauce on it. I like a soy-chili paste combo.

          3 Replies
          1. re: joonjoon

            Am assuming this is after you've nailed it to your cutting board so that you can flay it and zip out the backbone.

            1. re: wattacetti

              Yeah I've only had live eel at restaurants so I've never had to deal with them personally. :)

              1. re: wattacetti


                You sure you wanna deal with a live one? If you're going to cook, here's one recipe:


                And if you're not in the mood to cook, Asian markets often sell cooked unagi, like the kind you find atop sushi, in packets. You could get that and some Japanese pickles, make steamed rice and do a bento dealie....

            2. There are some korean restaurants that sell live sea eel(anago) but if you are talking about freshwater eel, it's probably better to buy one of those packaged ones from japanese market. Make sure it's imported from japan.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Monica

                Even imported from Japan, its still raised in China, from American eels collected from the rivers here and shipped there. The OP doesn't explain where she is, but here in NYC all the bigger Asian markets carry live eels. That said, I don't know where they are caught, and eels can store an awful lot of PCB's and other contaminants in their fat. But grilled live eel is great...just pull the skin off, gut it, baste in a soy glaze, and grill...just be prepared to see the cut sections of eel continue to move.....

              2. Thanks for everyone's suggestions! We got a few live eels and did them grilled & asian style, just like many of you suggeested. It was amazing. Thanks Chowhounds, as always, you guys rock!

                2 Replies
                1. re: Lynndsey Rigberg

                  wow..so how did you manage to get them? did you buy them from an asian market?

                  tell us the detail..how did you kill it?

                  1. re: Monica

                    EricMM: Not all eel imported from Japan is raised in China. Japan has it's own eels. But there are companies that label it as Japanese eels though, as you said, raised in China. It's a problem here that the government crack down on from time to time. As you can imagine, Japanese eels fetch a higher price so the dubious ones have a go at tricking consumers.

                    As for preparing a live eel, the easiest way is to nail the live creature into your wood cutting board at the head near the spine, make a slit behind the fin on the side, and then drag a short strong knife down the length of the belly on one side of the skeleton while using your other hand to hold the eel down. Don't punch through the back. Then slip the knife under the skeleton and repeat same procedure. All this should take less than 40 seconds. Next pour some hot water, scrape of the scum with a knife or hard brush and rinse in cold water.

                    Or alternatively, gut the eel, cut off the head, make a slit at the tail, use some paper towel to get a good hold on the slippery tail and then filet the beast. Repeat. Skin side up, press them onto a cutting board enough so that they adhere well, place the cutting board in the sink at an angle so water goes into the sink and pour boiling water on the skin until it's opaque. Use the backside of a knife to scrape off all the "ectoplasm", the scum. And cook how you like.

                    In Japan, steamed and then dip in tare and grilled over some awesome charcoal.