Baby eels, popularly known as angulas, are pale, worm-shaped seafood eaten in the Basque region of Spain. Baby eels were traditionally cooked and consumed individually in a small earthenware dish along with a unique wooden fork prepared using Boj wood.
Considered to be one of Spain’s most expensive foods, they are generally consumed tapas-style, as an element of a multi-course meal. They are also frequently consumed with spaghetti.
Baby eels have a flavour that ranges from mild to nil. And as far as texture is concerned, they are very much like cooked spaghetti, but with a little crunch to them.
The season of catching baby eels begins in November, and the perfect time to fish for them is during the coldest and rainiest nights when the tide is powerful and the water is violent and turbid. Also known as elvers in English, this traditional Basque dish is widely available in Spanish supermarkets.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Baby eels are the offspring of the common Atlantic eel, which are found in the Sargasso Sea, in the section of the Atlantic Ocean that somewhat coincides with the Bermuda Triangle. Angulas a la bilbaína is a traditional Basque dish, termed after Bilbao, the city in Northern Spain where it was first made.
In the beginning, these baby eels weren’t as overpriced as they’re today. They were originally consumed only by peasants. The expensiveness of this delicacy is only a consequence of high demand and shortages carried on by overfishing. Today, baby eels are on the verge of extinction.
In the Basque country, baby eels are served during big festivals such as Christmas or the evening prior to the day San Sebastian observes its patron’s day.
- Baby eels (150 gm) - 5.3 oz.
- Lemon - 1/2
- Fresh chili peppers - 2
- Garlic cloves - 2
- Extra virgin olive oil - 1-2 tbsp
- Mixed salad leaves – 1 bag
- Bread (of your preference) – optional
- Begin by taking the chilli peppers and washing them properly. Cut them in half and make sure to take out the seeds and membranes. Cut them thinly.
- Now take the garlic and peel it. Once done, finely slice or mince the garlic cloves.
- The next step is to take a medium-sized pan and heat oil in it. Add in the garlic, chilies and baby eels. On a medium flame, sauté all the ingredients for about 2-4 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally.
- While the above ingredients are cooking, take the bread and toast it properly on both sides. Once done, slice it and place it on a plate along with the salad leaves on the side.
- Take a lemon and squeeze it over the prepared sautéed mixture. Check if the taste is according to your preference. Add to taste.
- Transfer the baby eel mixture on top of the toasted bread. Place another piece of toasted bread on top and there you have it! Your delicious baby eels are ready to be consumed.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 367Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 130mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 21g
Photo credit: saragoldsmith