Many marshes in Japan are filled with cattails, and the image of these plump, burnished brown aquatic grasses is appealing to the Japanese. So much so that glazed plank-grilled eels and other butterflied fishes that fan out to resemble the shape and color of cattails are called by that name.
If you’ve never eaten grilled eel before, you may be surprised at how rich yet finely textured the meat is. The sweet soy glaze helps seal in the natural oils and flavor. Excellent commercially prepared kabayaki (“cattail-seared” eel) is available at most Oriental groceries in the United States. Look in the freezer section where vacuum-sealed packages are stored. These make a quick, nutritious, and delicious meal.
© 1988 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.