The cooking of the winter anago is delectable. The sea eel is one of those very treasures most people never taste and instead have frozen eel. That is a crying shame because the difference is immense and when chef’s use frozen eel, it similar to eating steak au poivre made with cream sauce. The fact is any meat cooked in a heavy sauce that smothers the meat defeats the purpose of using good quality meat. In most cases chef’s take second cuts when preparing this dish for that very reason.
Now imagine that when you eat frozen sea eel most of the texture is destroyed and it is in no way comparable. The eel that is freshly skinned and cooked, is in a class of its own. Now so ask yourself why do chef’s use a sweet tare on foods, and the reason is; it helps enhance the experience. The same way a chef uses nikiri, it helps meld the flavours and is complementary.
But there is one more factor to consider and that’s how the eel is prepared. Well for those of you who have no idea, this eel is stylized after a chef from the 1950’s and few chefs follow this process in preparing the eel. Anyway that’s kind of trade secret, so I’ll stick with the amadare, or also know as tsume. It is made with sugar and mirin and eel reduction, the very juices that are tsume (sweet liquid) from cooking eel. It is made twice a year and stored for everyday use.