A fish that connects Japan to Europe

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July was an adventurous month of my travel diary. Having wrapped up the month on a good note, I was glad to accept an invitation for a supper with one our Japanese customers in London. The place wore a festive look. We had been informed that annual ‘Doyo No Ushi’ celebration was on the spree. My Japanese mate told me that as a matter of tradition, on the day of ‘Doyo No Ushi’ in Japan, ‘Eel’ is eaten to prepare for the hot summers. It is considered to be a nutrient rich food that provides adequate energy to fight the tough summer heat and humidity. ‘Unagi’, the Japanese name for freshwater eels is a very common ingredient in Japanese cooking. And then there is ‘Asanago’ or salt water eel.

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In England too, eel is more of a traditional food, especially the jellied and smoked versions. And with this festival, the intent was to celebrate the commonality between both the cultures and rejoice the legacy of eel that’s almost on the verge of extinction. The wild ones are out for conservation and eel lovers like the one who was sitting next to me now relish the farmed version of the species. But today was a special day for him as he would be served the wild eels of Lincolnshire.

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First came a traditional European dish of the 18th century, jellied eel with chili vinegar, sansho leaf, and mashed potato. Chopped eels are boiled in a spiced stock, cooled and set to form a jelly. Next was a crunchy eel bone with soft boiled eggs and celery salt. Followed by it we had eel offal, and girolles, eel and cocoa bean soup, grilled eel with a nice smoky flavour and leafy salad.

The treat was a perfect amalgamation of the Japanese flavour and the European aroma. The delicacies were vibrant but the strong flavour and rich oil of the eel was a never to forget savoury experience.

As the world’s supply of wild eels has hit the endangered levels, and eel lovers are relying on the farmed versions, it is imperative to adhere to the sustainability mandates. The use of science and technology is essential to meet the food and nutrition needs of the growing population. But then it is also important to ensure that sustainable aquaculture practices are being given equal importance. I’m glad our HoReCa team only supplies sustainably farmed species of European fish to the Gulf. We never catch a wild baby to grow a big stout because we know that they connect cultures world over!

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