Sunday, July 09, 2017


Almost nothing says home to a Dutchman better than eel. Which, when smoke-cured, is one of the Netherlands traditional and beloved foods, much sneered at by American tourists. We now also have McDonalds for those types, so it is safe for Anglos from Bunfudgistan (the Midwest, the South, and large parts of both The Valley and the East Coast -- you are ALL 'bunfudge') to visit the Netherlands.

Fortunately, there are two Pacific anguilles that make us happy here in SF. Both are, unsurprisingly, available in Asian markets. The Japanese eel (日本鰻), called "white eel" (白鱔 'baak sin') in Cantonese, is a popular item, what is locally known as 'wong taai' (黃帶 "yellow sash") is somewhat less prized, somewhat more abundant, and stands up very well to Dutch or Belgian cooking techniques.

"Hotly beloved eel claypot rice"

The Japanese Eel is a very Hong Kong ingredient, and also deservedly popular in Toishan, but it is rare to see it on a menu over here.
Yet it is delicious, and should be demanded more.

It is exceptionaly good in claypot rice, which is parboiled rice finished in a pre-heated claypot -- contact with the blistering ceramic surface will "crust" the rice -- with the juices from the meats which are layered over to steam along dripping through and adding yet one more layer of flavour.

Claypot rice, whatever the zesty addition, is a delightful restaurant dish. It can be made with preserved meats, chicken and salt fish, pork patty and salt fish, eggplants, pork, seafood ... and eel (白鱔煲仔飯 'baak sin po chai faan'). Two common combos in Hong Kong are "eel and spare ribs claypot rice" (白鱔排骨煲仔飯 'baak sin pai gwat po chai faan') and "eel and sausage claypot rice" (白鱔臘腸煲仔飯 'baak sin lap cheung po chai faan'). Glossy chicken and eel claypot rice is also a good choice.
黃鱔滑雞煲仔飯 ('wong sin gwat gai po chai faan').

If you cannot eat with other people, and yet want something special, order claypot rice. Even by yourself it is festive. There will be left-overs.

Again, all this is very simple: soak the rice for an hour or so and parboil it, pre-heat the claypot, dump in the rice, layer chunks of fish and meat on top, add some slivered ginger, cover with the lid and put on a low flame for about twenty minutes, and remove the vessel from the heat. Bring to the table piping, uncover, and drizzle in some soy sauce.

Exact quantities of everything are variable.

Most meaty ingredients benefit from dressing with a little soy sauce, oyster sauce, ricewine, cornstarch, garlic, sugar, and salt, before being placed on the rice. When using mashed salted blackbeans, marinate for an hour. For meats (chicken, pork), you may wish to nuke them in the microwave before placing on top of the rice to make sure they're cooked, although traditionally they would be done as long as the rice in the same pot.

Chopped green onion, black mushrooms, and cubes of deepfried tofu (豆卜 'tau puk') can be added for the last bit of cooking


The Crown Plaza is known for their clay pot rice with eel and black bean sauce (豉汁油錐煲仔飯 'si jap yau cheui po chai faan'), see this lovely Facebook photo. Suitable for two.

Crown Plaza Hong Kong Kowloon East
Tong Tak Street
Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong.
Right above the MTR Station and a shopping mall.

Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳 "General's Bay") is on the other side of Sai Kung Peninsula (西貢半島) from most of Kowloon, where Junk Bay used to be.
It's been newly developed, partially filled.

Other popular eel dishes:

豉椒白鱔煲仔飯 ('si jiu baak sin po chai faan')
Black bean and peppers eel claypot rice.

豉汁蒸白鱔 ('si jap jeng baak sin')
Black bean steamed eel.

清蒸白鳝 ('ching jeng baak sin')
Clear steamed eel.

蒜仔白鳝 ('suen jai baak sin')
Garlic eel.

燒白鱔 ('siu baak sin')
Barbecued eel.

If you wish to prepare eel at home, you will need a plank with a nail sticking out. Bash the eel on the head to stun or kill him, jam the head onto the nail (the beast should be belly side up), slit the fish lengthwise, and remove the guts. It can be skinned, but it need not be. Rinse.
Then proceed as per your recipe.

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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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