Here we go, even the humble pollock fish is now doing some impersonating. It's become the great stand in for baby eels, sometimes called elvers and called angulas in Spain. It's been going on for years and thank goodness as the real eels are very overpriced and just about impossible to find. A sad reflection on changing ocean habitat and over fishing.
Young fresh eels of about 2-3 years and about three inches long are the thickness of a spaghetti strand and if you could find them in the fish markets they would fetch well over 1,000 Euros per kilo. But, having said that, authentic angulas can still be found in cans but are of course very expensive and not anything like their fresh counterpart.
Come in the 'gulas' made of pollock fish. Pollock is fished in both European and Alaskan waters
and turned into mock angulas then renamed, gulas. This product is readily available all over Spain and some parts of France. In both countries they are sold in cans, jars and vacuum packs. Auchan, the big supermarket chain in France, sells gulas but that is the only place I could find them.
I've eaten mock gulas on countless tapas without knowing there was anything mock about them. So if they do taste anything like the real thing, as I have read they do, then that's okay by me. They are delicious.
Gulas are served on diagonal sliced bread and topped with a little mayonnaise and charred red pepper slices. This is a common tapa/pintxos in Spain and especially in the Basque country. See my recipe for this under TAPAS.
Wanting a change and wanting to bring out the true flavour of my mock friends I tried the following:
Makes 8 tapas:
1 clove garlic finely sliced
1 small fresh red chilli finely sliced
1 tablespoon grape-seed oil
8 heaped tablespoons gulas
Heat a small frying pan, add the oil, heat it and cook the garlic and chilli for a few minutes until softened then add the gulas. Toss all the ingredients together until everything has warmed though.
Twist the eels onto the prongs of a fork and carefully prise them off onto an “Asian” serving spoon. Continue until they are all used up. Sit the spoons in shallow bowls for support as they are inclined to slip off. The gulas tapa presented like this look striking served on coloured spoons.
The warming process, with the addition of garlic and chilli, brings out the flavour and leaves a more succulent taste and texture in the mouth.
Good luck finding gulas in your country but don't despair if you don't live in Spain. I have seen them in tins way over here in Australia, namely in the department store David Jones and in some Spanish outlet stores. I've seen 'real' angulas in tins here too. If buying the tins check whether they are gulas or angulas. The price difference is enormous.