Eels do not sound very tasty, or even edible, but they are turned into fine culinary art in Japan. The slimy creatures can be fried with batter, simmered or barbequed with a sauce. They are prized for their sweet taste and soft texture.
Unagi is perhaps the most famous example of eel seafood dish. They are freshwater eels, and are a bit expensive because of its long preparation time. A simple rice and barbequed unagi meal are typically 2500yen onwards, which is a pretty treat. Specialist unagi restaurants are common in Japan and are often frequented during the hotter months of the year. Unagi is often prepared grilled and seasoned with tare sauce (or salt), together with rice and a light soup. The best unagi apparently comes from Shizuoka, in lake Hamana in Hamamatsu city.
While not common in other countries, anago, or the saltwater eel, is more commonly served in Japan. They are often simmered and then served as sushi with a sweet sauce. They may also be served fried in tempura batter. Compared to unagi, anago has a weaker and sweeter taste, and is also very soft. They are also more affordable, and can be easily found in cheap conveyor belt sushi chains.
Freshwater eels in particular face the threat of extinction, so rapid consumption of these beautiful creatures in Japan is a definite ecological problem. It was not so much a problem in the past, when these eels are true delicacies to be enjoyed on special days; but now eels can be found even in supermarkets and eaten as a quick lunch, and the demand for these fish has far surpassed sustainable supply. This is bad news for the species and future generations, and for our selfish pockets.