A few weekends back, my wife and I decided to experiment with our dinner plans and try a dish that we had never eaten before. Living in Seoul, Korea, we drove 40 minutes north to a small enclave of restaurants settled in base of Bukhansan National Park. One of the first places we spotted served grilled eel. I looked over at my wife and immediately said, “we’ve got to try this!”
From the Eel Tank to My Plate
As we approached the restaurant, we noticed several large tanks of live eels surrounding the front entrance. Specifically, these were salt water eels, or pada jangoh, in Korean. Each tank contained around 30 sea serpents swimming gracefully around each other. Honestly, the scene was more hypnotic than frightening. After staring for a few minutes, my wife gave me a nudge and it was time to move on. Inside, we sat at a table containing a built-in grill and ordered one kilogram (2.2 lbs) worth of eel, enough for two people. As the fish was being prepared, the waitress brought various side items, such as kimchi, perilla leaf, garlic, and sliced ginger. After a short while, the eel was delivered, pre-cooked and sliced into small pieces. We finished the process by grilling the fish ourselves over an open flame.
Delicious and Healthy
I’ll admit, the grilled eel tasted very good. The white meat was soft in texture and tender but surprisingly lacked a fishy flavor. Without seeing it live first, I would have never guessed what I was eating. We ate the pieces dipped in sauce or wrapped in perilla leaf–both ways delicious. Of course, we washed down nearly every bite with a shot of Korean soju! With respect to the health benefits, eels are a great source of vitamins B, D, and E, and contain fatty acids that help lower cholesterol. Being one long muscle, it’s also an obvious source of protein. Combined with the fresh vegetables provided, the entire meal was the epitome of healthy eating!
Ready to Try Eel for Yourself?
If you’re visiting South Korea or Japan, locating restaurants specializing in sea eel is not too difficult. However, this could prove more of a challenge in the United States. Definitely research for locations before setting off on your culinary adventure. Additionally, the overall experience was quite expensive–around $70 for one kilogram of eel and sides. It may be better to save this meal for a special occasion. If you do have a chance to try this unique dish, though, I recommend going for it!
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