Culinary traditions

In the oldest collection of Japanese poems
(Manyo-shu 313-759), the gustative qualities of the eel
were already praised. Originally there existed a recipe
(gamayaki) which was simply grilled eel flesh pierced
through by a thin reed branch over a fire.

Later, at the time of Edo, the eel remained an excellent
food and was very much appreciated by the nobility.
A new recipe was invented (kabayaki) which consisted
of sprinkling the eel grill with soya sauce in order to bring
out the taste of it.

It is at the end of this period that NODA Iwajiro, who founded
NODAIWA, created - thanks to his know-how - a new sauce
called “taré” with soya sauce, mirin (mild saké) and other
secretly kept ingredients.

The way of opening an eel in the Kansaï area
(in the Osaka region) is different from that of Kanto (area of Tokyo).
In the first area, it is opened through the belly, but in the second, it is opened through the back. That is related to the ideals of the samouraïs class in the period Edo because at that time, opening a fish through the belly meant “harakiri”. As there were many samuraïs in Kanto, they hardly appreciated this way of doing it and started to open eels through the back. Still today, this way of opening the eel remains traditional.

Eel

Eel

This fish has a cylindrical lengthened body and it is very much appreciated in Europe (type of anguilla anguilla) and in the Far East, particularly in Japan (type of anguilla japonica). 18 different species are listed throughout the world. The eel is a species in regression and has a certain number of specific characteristics: colour, length of the dorsal fin, size, shape of the head, habitat and geographical distribution. Its way of life is still surrounded by mystery due to its various metamorphoses.

It is a catadromous fish (living in fresh water and migrating into a marine environment to reproduce there). The eel has a small but rather long head with a narrow muzzle at the end of which the presence of tubulous nostrils can be observed; the eye is small; the jaws have lots of small pointed and sharp-edged teeth which are powerful (the lower-jaw is longer than the upper-jaw).
The thick smooth skin without scales has a wide variety of colours: its back can be brown-green with a yellowish belly or else the back can be black with a silver ventral side.

The eel changes its diet according to the various stages of its development: from plankton and larvae of insects worms to shellfish and fish..
Living in all ponds and rivers of Europe and North Africa, it feeds abundantly during the night searching particularly in spring and summer. It generally remains sunk into mud during the day.

At this stage of its development, it is sedentary and it is named “yellow eel” because of its colour. After a period of growth between 6-12 years (for males) and 10-20 years (for females), the adult eel will undergo a metamorphosis and will be called eel of “avalaison” having changed skin colour which will become green and then takes on a silver pigmentation at the same time as the break in nutrition which follows the regression of the digestive tract.

From now on will begin the eel’s fabulous migration descending the rivers at the time of nights of the full moon to travel the downstream and then into the sea and the ocean. It will cover a distance of approximately 6000 km, over a period of 120 to 200 days, at the depth of 1500 to 2000 metres.
It will at last arrive in the depths of the Sargasso Sea which is a place of reproduction, to reach its sexual maturity and to spawn. Once laying is achieved – reaching up to twenty million eggs - the adults die, thus marking the beginning of the surprising cycle of life of this fish.

The pelagic larvae which were born in those depths will develop and let themselves be carried by the currents for approximately 3 years before reaching the European coasts and spreading out from the north of Morocco to the north of Norway while moving in strings.
They will then transform into young eels (elvers) similar to the adults but always colourless and will try to penetrate all rivers while passing by bays and estuaries. During the summer, the young elvers will go up the rivers, will take a yellowish colour and will settle down into their long period of growth.