Saturday, June 18, 2016

Braised Eel (Luon Kho)--serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal

braised eel (luon kho)
Recently I saw some eels at the fish counter at a market in Boston Chinatown. I purchased 2 (that came to about 1 1/2 pounds) and the man behind the counter gutted and bagged them for me. I am not sure where these eels came from since the man speaks only Cantonese (a dialect that is foreign to me) and even if I could talk to him he may not know the answer. It may not be a good idea to eat eels that come from an unknown source too frequently, or just plain never according to my mother! Initially she thought the eels looked great until she learned where I got them. I often see them swimming in a tank next to the fish counter but never bought any. The last time I bought eels was during my previous trip to Vietnam. The eels there were much smaller than these. I had forgotten how bloody and slimy these particular type of eels can be. Once home I had to really clean the intestines well by removing the blood vessels, scraping the body and belly and rubbing their entire body in a vinegar bath several times. It requires a bit of time and patience but in the end of my cleaning session they are pretty much slime and blood free. If you do not clean them well they may have a strong odor when you cook them. Having had to clean eels many times I know what it takes to perform a thorough and proper job. I have heard of this myth that eels will always be slimy no matter how much effort is put into cleaning them. My husband actually touched the cleaned eels and was surprised that they did not feel slimy.

Here is my previous post on How to Clean Eels. My mother cleans her eels with warm water, salt and vinegar to get them extra clean. She uses the salt to rub the entire body.

This braised eel dish is known as luon kho in Vietnamese. This typical kho dish tends to be saltier than normal and people generally dip fresh vegetables (such as lettuce, herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes), either steamed or boiled vegetables in the liquid. For this meal I ate boiled okra and water spinach with fresh cut tomatoes. 

2 eels from the market
cleaned eels
Braised Eel (Luon Kho)--serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal


1 Eel (about 12 oz), cut into 2-inch lengths pieces
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp grated garlic (2 large)
1 tsp turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (plus a few pinches more to garnish)
1 cup coconut water
1 scallion, green part only, chopped (garnish)


Put all ingredients (except for the scallions) in a small pot. Once the liquid boils, turn the heat down to medium low and let it simmers for 30 minutes with the cover partially on. Remove the cover and let the liquid simmers for another 10 more minutes (to help evaporate some of the liquid) or until the liquid has reduced to your preference. Remove the eel pieces and reserve them in a clean bowl. Strain the liquid and pour it over the eels. Garnish with a few pinches of ground black pepper and chopped scallions.

*Since I purchased 2 eels I was able to pick out the larger pieces for braising. The smaller eel pieces I used for the hot pot.
*If you do not have turbinado sugar you may use any brown sugar for this recipe.

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