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How Chef Jacob Harth Catches and Cooks the Monkeyface Eel

The eel gets the yakitori treatment right on the beach

“For as long as I’ve lived in Oregon, you generally assume the further you can cast out here, the better chance you have of catching a fish,” says Portland-based chef Jacob Harth, as he stands on a jetty in shallow water in Netarts Bay, off the coast of Oregon. “But in reality, you’re just standing right on top of them a lot of the time.” He’s making the point to show how reasonably easy it is to catch a monkeyface eel with a poke pole . they’re generally quite close to the longer, walkable jetties.

The eel can breathe air as well as survive underwater, and it gets its name from its face, which resembles a monkey. “With this eel, it’s not any more or less intimidating than any other fish,” Harth says. “It’s a little bit uglier, but as far as the flavor goes, it’s just as delicious as anything else you can get out of the ocean.”

After the chef catches a few, he cleans and fillets the eels by cutting them right along the spine. He then skewers them, and grills them over hot charcoal on his yakitori grill. Once the skin on the eel is crispy, Harth brushes it with a glaze made from reduced fish stock, tamari, and fish sauce. “The flavor is so sweet, so clean, still has all that fat in there,” Harth says. “And has delicious crispy skin.”

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