Slices of eel, or palos as it is called in the Philippines, topped with slivered leeks, julienned carrots, ginger and sliced caps of black chinese mushrooms, are steamed over a bed of leeks in this Chinese-inspired recipe. Smoking hot sesame seed oil is poured over the cooked dish as a final garnish.
This is a simplified version of a recipe I learned from my father. His recipe included tofu and pork chops. He cleaned eel the same way he cleaned hito (catfish) and dalag (mudfish)–with wood ash. Too complicated and messy for me. Using boiling water with salt and vinegar is something I picked up from a chinese cookbook.
Eel is a delicacy in Chinese restaurants. Quite expensive. Bought fresh in the wet market, eel is rather cheap compared to other seafood. Perhaps, the astronomical price in chinese restaurants is due to the sensitive handling of the eel during the cleaning stages. Unless, properly cleaned, eel is slimy.
The flesh of the eel is similar to fish. In fact, an unwary diner will probably not know that he is eating eel unless told. The only giveaway is the texture of the skin. It is thickish but soft, similar to the fatty skin of the catfish. And, like the catfish, eels have no scales.
In Filipino cooking, eel is usually cooked as an adobo dish.
Steamed Eel (Palos) Topped With Leeks, Mushrooms and Carrots
- Place the eel in a glass bowl.
- Boil 2 cups of water with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vinegar.
- Pour boiling water over the eel. Let stand for 2 minutes, rinse under tap water, drain well and dry with paper towels.
- Cut crosswise into 1-1/2″ slices.
- Cut the leek stalk lengthwise and rinse under tap water to get rid of any soil.
- Separate the dark green leaves from the light green and white stalk.
- Cut the dark green leaves into 6″ lengths.
- Cut the light green and white stalk into 2″ lengths, then sliver lengthwise.
- Julienne carrot and ginger (cut into matchsticks).
- Strain the mushroom water with a double layer of clean cheesecloth (katsa) and set aside.
- Heat a heavy skillet. Melt the butter or margarine.
- Over high heat, brown both sides of the eel. Set aside.
- Line a heatproof dish with the dark green leaves of the leeks.
- Arrange the slices of eel over them.
- Top the eel with the slivered leeks, julienned carrots and ginger, and sliced mushroom caps.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Mix soy sauce with the mushroom water and pour over the eel and vegetables.
- Place the dish in a steamer with vigorously boiling water. Cover the steamer, lower heat to medium and steam the eel for 15 minutes.
- Heat the sesame seed oil in a small saucepan until it smokes. Pour the hot oil over the cooked eel and vegetables just before serving.
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