We got to put Sand Eels on the menu this week which was pretty cool, not many restaurants would do this, and I at least have not seen them on any menu’s ever actually. Their shiny, silvery bodies made them really photogenic for a group photo, and I love running my hands though them whilst rinsing them to get rid of the little bits of seaweed that travel with them (or maybe thats just me).
In service, we dunk a handful in milk and then in well-seasoned flour, simply deep-frying them, serving the little pile of eels as a starter with a creamy aioli or some kind of mayonnaise based sauce and a wedge of lemon. They have a definite crunch and make a light starter or snack – a bonus in a wine bar! I thing doing anything else to them would just be abusing the ingredient.
This cooking and serving method is seen more often with whitebait, which are tiny little fish. Thats where a sustainability issue comes in, because if immature fish are caught for whitebait, then where are all the mature ones for future fish stocks going to come from. The vast shoals of tiny fish are often caught in a way that comes across as dodgy to even the most uninitiated to sustainable fishery – two trawlers drag a huge net and catch everything that happens to be in that space between them (pair-trawling). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that its not only going to be tiny fish, leaving a sealife graveyard behind.
So no sad stories for us, we’ll happily check out what else the ocean has to offer that isn’t overfished and appreciate its diversity more!