Project Gastronome, Day 2: Braised Eel


When I was in the planning stages for Project Gastronome, there were a couple of things that I had pretty firmly decided I wanted to include (and which you will get to read about soon), but I knew that I'd never find them at the grocery store.  Luckily, Texas Tech's sizeable community of international students means that Lubbock has not one, but three Asian markets.  What I didn't plan on when I visited one, though, was that it would end up being a treasure trove of other potential menu items, which is how I ended up with tonight's course, braised eels.

When I walked into the Far East Supermarket on 34th Street, I only saw one person in there, a very attractive Asian girl in her mid-20s.  I asked her if she could help me find something, but she told me that she didn't actually work there, and that the shopkeeper was in the back at the moment.  So now I was not only wondering if they carried what I was looking for, but also wondering if this girl thought I was a racist for just automatically assuming that an Asian person standing near the counter must work there.  It's difficult having a brain full of white liberal guilt sometimes, y'all.

Anyway, while I slunk off between some shelves and waited for the proprietor to return, I saw this can, and knew that I had to try it for Project Gastronome.
Nancy, the very friendly shopkeeper, returned to the counter, and I struck up some conversation with her.  She had a pretty big selection of those Chinese waving kitties on the shelf.  You know, the ones that look like this:

I told her how much Ava would love one of them, and that I'd have to bring her back sometime to let her pick one.  We talked about kids, and she told me about her own children, and then she gave me some serving suggestions for my purchases.  I'll be sharing more of them as we get to some of the other foods.  I asked if I needed to cook the eel meat, and she pointed to the word "braised" on the can.  "It's braised - already cooked in its own juices.  You just open it and eat it like you would with sardines."  Well, of course.

Opening the can didn't really fill me with confidence.  It looked and smelled a lot like canned cat food.  Here's what it looked like in the can, with a Batman action figure thrown in because it makes me laugh.  I noticed that the meat was cut into tiny filets; it really was like a can of sardines.

I'm only two nights into this project, and already I'm learning an important lesson.  Plate your food and eat it as soon as possible.  The longer you stare it down and let the smell of it fill your room and your nostrils, the more you're going to psych yourself out.

Because here's the thing - once I sat down with it and took a bite, it was really good!  I'm guessing that preparation is a big part in determining the edibility of eels, because I could very easily see another cooking method not having as much success.  These were packed in some kind of soy/garlic/ginger sauce that really made them tasty, though.  The only downside is the aftertaste - nearly two hours after eating this, and multiple glasses of water later, I still have the flavor of it in my mouth.

In the video, I struggled a little to think of how to describe the texture, but I think I've finally got it.  Imagine that a snake went on vacation to the beach and had an affair with a fish while she was there.  Months later, she gives birth to the unholy snake/fish offspring that is the result of their union.  Actually, considering that an eel is essentially a snake that lives in the water, that kind of works.

And now, without further ado, I give you the tasting!  (I have to apologize for the background noise - the dryer was running in the utility room.)

This was too funny not to share.  Last night, after eating pigs feet, I took the leftovers out to the dumpster and then had to fix the latch on the gate when I came back in.  I had no idea that Blake knew how to work the video camera.  Flip video cameras should use this in their commercials - they are easy enough for a kindergartener to pick up and figure out!  Anyway, here's the footage.


parish said...

Since when does Lubbock have Asian markets!? The whole world has gone topsy-turvy.

I love eel, but it's hard to come by fresh in the States. As a rule, the further it is from fresh, the harder it is to stomach. I am not sure I have the intestinal fortitude to eat it from a tin, so props to you.

Roy B said...

I love that you start each video with a formal introduction.

Of course, the best part of this episode is the bonus feature from Blake. His laugh as you're coming through the door is classic!

Danny said...

@Jeremy - Good to hear from you! I've just added your blog to my RSS feed. Know what's crazy? I actually drove by a fourth Asian market this morning that I didn't even know about until today. There's two Indian markets, too. Lubbock's coming up in the world! Now that my oldest son is big enough to start getting into comics, I like to show him covers by Alex Ross and let him know that he's a fellow Lubbockite. I figured that you, as a fellow artist, would appreciate that.

@Roy - I may be wearing t-shirts, but I'm still a class act! I think that I may have stumbled onto the hook that's going to keep people coming back for more, and I will be exploiting Blake for all it's worth for the next month.

Will Meekin said...

Debbie Downer wonders if you're trying to lose weight, should you be eating so late?

Danny said...

That's actually something I had considered. For most of these, the quantity I'll be eating is small enough that I'm not too worried, and it's just easier to do them if the kids are already in bed. I'll be incorporating a few of them into meals, too.

Jenn said...

I'm by far one of the pickiest eaters alive, and your blog not only disgusts me but is so darn intriguing haha! Not to mention I have the world's worst gag reflex so just looking at the eels would have made be barf! I'm sure my Memaw and Papaw could give you some ideas...cow brains/cow tongue perhaps? (double blech!) Hmmm you'd probably like it though, you eat more authentic Mexican food than I do :)

Danny said...

Yeah, I've actually had several people suggest including brains and tongue in the menu this month, but I've had to turn them down... because I've already tried them both.

Andrea G. said...

"I don't trust canned meat". Boy, ain't you never had Spam?? ;) Tickle Blake for me! Just to hear him laugh!!

Danny said...

I'll admit to going through my share of Spam back in the bachelor days. There's some pretty great things that you can do with it, fried Spam and eggs being my favorite. I know it's a silly hangup, but it just seems like meat never comes out of cans with the right texture. It's good for if your making salads, though, like with that canned devilled ham.

Ali said...

seriously. i have to watch you eat these things out of the corner of my eye. i don't care if you CLAIM that it's good or not. and the fact that you said you could still taste it two hours later completely freaks me out. BRUSH YOUR TEETH. immediately. next time. *shudder*

ok. two down. sixteen more to go. how did i get so far behind?! where the hell did april go?!

p.s. i'm in love with blake.

Danny said...

The best are definitely ahead of you! I'm sort of wondering where the month went, too. Actually, I'm wondering where the first third of the year went - it seems like we just were celebrating Christmas...

He's a pretty loveable kid. Usually.

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