When I went to mom’s to learn Tee Pong (Red Cooked Picnic Shoulder), there was a theme that day. I was learning my grandfather’s favorite dishes, and after that fatty pig centerpiece, his next favorite was Eel with Yellow Chives. And just to let you know, he always finished every meal with oranges.

My grandpa insisted on eating these favorite dishes so much that my mom had to make it constantly, and we ordered it at restaurants too. Now, long after my grandfather passed away (in 1996), I realized that my mom hasn’t made Eel with Yellow Chives in years. I asked my mom why and she said it’s kind of a pain to make. Fresh eel requires a lot of cleaning. She also told me that sometimes she would be lazy and by frozen packs of prepped eel strips, ready-to-use, but in the last few years, she hasn’t seen it at the market. The yellow chives require some cleaning too.

Eel with Yellow Chives 2

Fresh eel is going to taste better anyway so I insisted she show me. I prodded, thinking that the fishmonger would do most of the work. They do gut it and de-bone them but there is still a lot of work ahead. (Detailed instructions are given in the recipe.)

de-boned eel

I’m admitting that this is a fussier recipe, but it’s also an amazingly tasty dish, and I can’t think of another one that is similar. Eel possesses qualities that are both meaty and seafood-y. There’s a complex mix of flavors at work: a drop of sour rounded with strong aromatics and a cloud of peppery-ness hanging over. In simple words, it’s just plain addictive.

Eel with Yellow Chives
~4 to 6 servings

  • 3 live eels (about 1/2 pound each), de-boned and gutted by fishmonger
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups yellow chives (2″ segments)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • sea salt and ground white pepper to taste
  • rice to serve

Instructions –

1. Cut heads off the eels and wash them in cold water.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Place eels in the boiling water for a few minutes, until they tighten a bit and a layer of skin will be coming off.

blanching eel

3. Remove from boiling water and rinse under cold water again, rubbing away any remaining skin. There is a vein (not 100% sure it’s a vein but see picture) you have to remove.

cleaning eel

4. Chill the eel for about an hour to make it easier to slice. (You can skip this step if you’re in a rush.) To cut eel into strips, first cut them into 2″ segments along the length on the eel. Each eel with yield about 3 (2″ long) pieces. Then, cut them into thin strips in the other direction, lengthwise.

slicing eel

5.  Heat oil in a wok on medium high heat. Fry the eel, gentle flipping, careful not to break the eel into pieces. The eel will shrivel and brown around the edges and most of the oil will be absorbed.

6. Add the ginger, vegetarian oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and black pepper. Stir and flip.

stir-frying eel strips 2

7. Add chives and sprinkle some salt. Toss and stir for few seconds for the chives to wilt.

8. Add sesame oil and vinegar and toss a few more times. Remove to a serving platter. Sprinkle white pepper on at the table and serve immediately with rice.

sprinkling white pepper

posted by jessica at 08:36 AM Filed under Chinese, Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.