Why Is Japanese Eel Called The ‘White Gold’
- Yash Lakhan
Updated : July 11, 2022 10:07 IST
Know why the famous Japanese eel is so expensive and its importance to Japanese cuisine.
Did you know about "Doyo-ushinohi," or Eel Day? This is the day when the Japanese eat unagi or eel every year to combat the oppressive heat. Eels have long been regarded as a wholesome and revitalising cuisine by the Japanese. Eels are now regarded as a delicacy, and there are artisanal eel restaurants all throughout Japan. It is not uncommon for diners to wait more than an hour in reputable eel restaurants since the chef begins processing the live eels as soon as the order is taken. While waiting patiently, the guests enjoy the delectable aromas emanating from the broiled eel cooking in the kitchen.
The eel preparation known as kabayaki is the most well-liked. To make kabayaki, an eel is butterflied, cut into rectangular fillets, skewered, and then dipped in a special sauce made of soy sauce before being cooked over charcoal (in Osaka) or from the back (in Tokyo). The sauce is frequently prepared using a restaurant's own recipe and is crucial to enhancing flavour. Unadon is the name for the kabayaki eel that is placed on top of a bowl of rice.
What Is The White Gold?
Eels have been consumed by people in Japan for thousands of years. Japanese eel is widespread throughout East Asia, but overfishing and shifting habitats have significantly reduced eel numbers. The global catch of eels has decreased by more than 75% since 1980, which has had a significant impact on price. Apart from this, eels require special care and maintenance while they are farmed. They ask for constant attention and farming them is in no way, economical. All of these factors when added together make the price of the eel that is sold in the market go extremely high. Thus, giving its name the ‘White Gold.’ This fish is the costliest in Japan. A kg of these young eels was sold for about $35,000 in January 2018.
Four of the 19 species of eels - the Japanese, European, American, and Indonesian eels are commonly consumed. Japanese eels are the type of eels that spawn in the Mariana Trench. Eels captured in rivers by the wild were traditionally harvested in Japan. Today, the majority of eel restaurants serve farmed eels that were developed from glass eels (little more than the size of a pinkie finger, glass eels resemble glassy earthworms rather than fish. They represent the Japanese eel's juvenile life stage) that were caught in rivers. This aquaculture technology depends on wild Japanese eel populations because wild captured glass eels must first be obtained in order to produce eels, and overfishing will cause resource depletion. The current glass eel catch has really been worrisomely low. Japanese eels are currently classified as endangered.
Dr Tsukamoto founded the East Asia Eel Society out of his concern that kabayaki eels would eventually be eliminated from restaurant menus in order to share knowledge about eels and find a solution to the declining eel population through research in a wide range of fields, including natural science, humanities, and social science, which would result in a thorough "Eel Science" that could save the species