An oil-rich, meaty and strongly flavoured fish. Long and snake-like, eels can vary in appearance according to what point in their life cycle they’re caught: for example, very young eels, called elvers, look like tiny, grey worms that resemble bootlaces. A fresh eel caught in salt water will be a dark, silvery colour while one caught in freshwater is likely to be green.
Eels are most often sold live, although they are sometimes available as steaks. A live eel is quite something to manage, so ask your fishmonger for advice. There are serious concerns surrounding the sustainability of eels, both wild and farmed (as even these are raised from wild elvers). The Marine Conservation Society advises to avoid eating eels as no sustainable source is yet available.
Eels are a traditional ingredient in the typical French freshwater fish stew, Matelote. They’re also very popular in Spain, particularly as elvers (which are generally served deep-fried). Hot-smoked eel is considered a delicacy and is popular in Northern Europe, while jellied eels are a traditional and popular treat in the East End of London.