When one thinks of seafood from Kochi, one usually thinks of bonito, a local specialty. However, the locals love moray eel just as much. Called the "gangsters of the sea" for their grotesque appearance and ferocity, moray eels are not typically eaten in other parts of Japan. Their sharp teeth are capable of biting through fishing lines and nets, making them the lament of many fishermen. Moray eels also have a large number of bones, so advanced skills are required when cooking them. Even a veteran moray eel chef needs 20 minutes to dress an eel, and they say it takes about two years to learn the necessary skills. Even so, the citizens of Kochi prefecture know moray eels are more than delicious enough to justify the trouble of preparing them.
Contrary to their appearance, the flesh of moray eels is delicate with a light, umami flavor. The rich collagen deposits near the skin make moray eel popular with women, as well. Although moray eel is usually prepared like bonito in a lightly-seared tataki style or fried, it is also dried, boiled, or eaten in hot pots. Although traditionally eaten in Kochi"s Susaki City, the custom of eating moray eel spread throughout the prefecture in the 1950s. Nowadays, it"s often found on local dinner tables and "moray eel tataki" is commonly found in supermarkets right alongside "bonito tataki." The way moray eel looks and the way it tastes are very different. Its looks can be off-putting at first, but the deliciousness of moray eel has a mysterious way of hooking many who try it.