The other night, we were walking down the street toward the beach. It was dark, and it had rained recently, so we could hear the gurgling of the water running down the sides of the road. To explain: all over Bali, there are “gutters” running down both sides of most of the streets. They are more like man-made creeks that corral the water running from the higher-land rivers, and is used to flood the rice fields for farming. The water is considered “clean” and you will often see people down in these gullies cleaning their feet, providing water to the cows, or washing their scooters. We enjoy the sound of the water, and the intricate engineering the levels and merging ‘gutters’.
As we approached the one street light on the road, we saw a young man crouched over a hole in the cement that covered the gully. Like a manhole cover, there was a block of cement slightly askew, creating a hole in which to reach the water. Out of curiosity, I asked “sadang apa apa?” – what’s going on? His English was good and he explained that he was fishing for eels that live in these waters. He was using a small frog ( that looked still alive!) on a fishing line (no pole) that he dropped into the “man hole”. We were mesmerized! He said that they had already caught about 4 and his friends were cooking them across the street in the kitchen of the very high-end resort where he worked. Then Marc shocked me, “can we try it?” he asked.
Now, I must remind you that we are not squeamish when it comes to food. We have both eaten crickets, cockroaches and mealie worms in Thailand, and Marc even ate a hissing cockroach about 3 inches long (he said it tasted like lobster!). But eating an eel from the gully on the side of the road . . . I had to think about that. I come from a long line of country folk on my dad’s side. My grandfather used to eat squirrel and possum, and he fed me raw oysters still in the inland water beds when I was just 2 years old, so I think it’s in my genes to try anything!
The young man seemed thrilled at our interest and said they would be ready in about 10 minutes. We walked to the beach, and when we returned, he led us into the kitchen of this quaint little resort. On one unit, a guy was cooking fish for a guest’s order, and on the other the eels! They had chopped the eel, into 1 inch segments and were sauteing them in oil with garlic, and some spices. I have to admit that it gave me comfort to see it being cooked in a state-of-the-art immaculate resort kitchen!
When the plate was passed out to us, there were about 8 chunks of eel. The skin was black, very similar to fish skin, and obviously the bones would be left in, so how does one eat it? We picked a piece up with our fingers and simply bit around the bones. IT WAS DELICIOUS! Light, flaky and just like lake bass. I was cautious to eat just one piece and not eat the skin – just in case I did get sick. And now I wish I had eaten more!
Google told me that Bali eels are highly nutritious – high in protein and iron. The eels live among the rice fields, and while I have never seen them on a menu, they are a regular meal for the locals. It was a great experience and we made a new friend. The only down side is that now I have a hankering for EEL and don’t know where to find it! Time to have a cook-out with our Bali friends!
Courage to you all!