Eel is an essential food item for restoring stamina and enhancing one’s appetite. Known for its powerful and robust taste, eel is a nutritious fish that is famous as a representative health food in both the East and the West. Especially during the months of May and June, when it is in season, eel is renowned for its smooth and oily texture that makes it stand out. It can be enjoyed in various ways, such as grilled, fried, or stewed, and in recent times, Japanese-style eel rice bowl has gained tremendous popularity in the foodservice industry.
People are increasingly seeking seasonal health foods like eel, particularly to make up for any neglect in their health management during the winter months. On the 27th, I spoke to Park Kyung-soo, the head of the Pyeongchon Natural Medicine Clinic, about the benefits of seasonal eel and ways to enjoy it healthily.
Eel, also known as the emperor of health foods, is rich in essential amino acids and vitamins A and B, as well as immunity-boosting elements like zinc and selenium, which aid in wound healing. According to the Donguibogam Tangak Pyeon, a traditional Korean medical book, it is believed that eel can improve immune function, making it effective in treating chronic diseases such as tuberculosis.
Eel has long been recognized as a food that is good for stamina, particularly its tail, which is regarded as a symbol of vitality and good health. Moreover, since the tail is relatively small compared to the rest of the eel, it is in high demand. However, there is no significant nutritional difference between the tail and the body of the eel, and the belief that the tail is more beneficial for the body is just a myth. According to traditional Korean medicine, eel itself, regardless of the part of the fish, has a positive effect on enhancing stamina. With its high protein and fat content, consisting of unsaturated fatty acids such as DHA and EPA, eel has an excellent ability to boost energy, making it a superior choice for restoring stamina. In fact, one of the classic texts on traditional medicine, the Hyangyak Jipseongbang, states that “eel relieves fatigue and nourishes the body.”
Park Kyung-soo suggests that if someone wants to enjoy the eel tail, it is better to give it up and take the larger flesh instead. He adds that eel is a fish that can be used entirely without waste, and that eel bone tempura served with grilled eel can help replenish calcium and iron in the body.
In summary, eel is a healthy ingredient that can enhance immunity and promote stamina recovery in the spring. However, like any other food, excessive consumption of eel, which is high in fat, may cause discomfort for those with a sensitive stomach, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and indigestion. Therefore, it is recommended to consume eel in moderation.