If you asked most Londoners about typical food in Europe's
largest city, most wouldn't give jellied eels the time
of day. But the traditional East End dish is enjoying something
of a revival amongst residents in the Capital and tourists
who are keen to capture a taste of the real old-fashioned
You can buy jellied eels from street stalls near the busy
markets on Brick Lane, or from specialist 'Eel, Pie
And Mash Shops' in the vicinity. There's about 80 such shops
in the East End which do a roaring trade and are widely regarded
as hotbeds of Cockney culture.
Origins and History
Pies have been popular in London since Victorian times. Originally
they were filled with eel, but the fish became hard to come
by during World War II so minced meat began to be used as
an alternative. Minced meat remained the filling of choice
even after the war, and when eels became widely available
once more they were relegated to the status of side dish.
'Eel, Pie & Mash Shops' were around long before
modern day burger joints claimed a pitch on every High Street.
They even date back earlier than fish and chip shops. Pies
and eels are quick to prepare and can be served eat-in or
take-way...the original fast food!
Eels are easy to eat on the go, and are a great snack to wolf
down on the way home from the pub. They can be boiled with
salt and pimento, or with a variety of vegetables and seasoning,
then set in gelatine when they are cooked. They taste rather
like pickled herrings - for a spicier flavour sprinkle with
a little chili vinegar.
Admittedly, jellied eels are an acquired taste, and not one
a lot of people are prepared to go to lengths to acquire!
But if you're in the big smoke it's got to be worth a gander...millions
of cockneys can't be wrong, can they guv'nor?