Recipes for Monkeyface Eel (Prickleback)

Ken Jones

Staff member
McClane’ s Fish Buyer’s Guide: Monkeyface (Eel) Prickleback — (A) Flavor: mild (B) Texture: dense (C) Flake: none apparent (D) Fat Content: low (E) Odor (Raw): bland: (F) Color after Cooking: white (G) Cooking Methods: poach or steam

Posted by frozendog on February 17, 2003

When I catch an eel I always leave it in the ice chest overnight to firm up. Probally rigamortis set in and then I take a paper towel and wipe the slime off. They are a lot easier to fillet that way. As for cooking, we use an egg wash and dip in italian breadcrumbs [add some parmasen cheese to breadcrumbs careful — they brown faster with the cheese]. Eels also make good fish tacos with a Cajun batter, A resturant we go to will prepare it fish and chips style which would be similar to tempura. Enjoy. Monkeyface eels are hard to catch but easy to eat.

If anyone catches a moray eel let it go, they don't fillet through. I have heard Pacific islanders cook them whole on a BBQ grill then slice them open and pick off the bone. If you don't eat it release it.

Posted by patrick333 on August 31, 2003

Monkeyface Eel Recipe

I saw a lot of reports about poke poling at the Fort Baker jetty, and you guys have been nailing them constantly. I would like to provide a Cantonese recipe for the eel, beside the "fillet and fry" style. Hope you guys like it.


• 1-2 pounds of monkey face eel (or whatever amount you like to feed your party), cleaned, cut into 1-1/2" pieces with bone and skin on, slightly season with salt and pepper.
• 1 pound of roast pork (from Chinatown), chopped it into pieces.
• A couple of heads of garlic, peeled.
• 1 bundle of green onion, cut into 2" pieces.
• Cooking wine, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.


in a hot wok, skillet, or pan, brown your garlic cloves and green onion slightly in 3 tbsp of oil; then put the roast pork in. After a couple of minutes put in your eel pieces, stir and sear them for a minute or two, then deglaze the pan with cooking wine. After cooking off most of the alcohol, put in the soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper, cover and braise for 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

Posted by Ken Jones

2 heads of garlic or 2 cloves? There’s a difference?

Posted by urge2fish

There's definitely a difference. Two heads of garlic can't be right, must be a typo mistake that needs to be corrected. 2 cloves is enough unless you really, really like garlic and feel like opening all the windows in the house.

Posted by patrick333

It's 2 heads. The garlic cloves are one of the selling points of the dish. Plus after the cooking it absorbs all the fat and flavor, it won't stink up your breath, and you can't get enough of it.

Posted by patrick333

Or if you don't like garlic....simply use only a couple cloves for flavor, then pick them out after cooking is done. Or no garlic at all, use some sliced ginger instead. The flavor of the fish will change a bit, but it’s still a wonderful dish.

Posted by urge2fish

O.K. I'll take your word on using 2 heads even with the addition of 1 lb. of pork meat along with the eel. I've cooked many meals and can't recall a time when I put in 2 heads of garlic for an average sized meal. I've had Chinese dishes usually Hunan or Cantonese which called for lots of garlic, maybe your recipe is closer to that style.

Posted by urge2fish

I responded without rereading your recipe which states Cantonese. Alright then, bring on the garlic heads.

Posted by Ken Jones

I cook a lot of Chinese food but usually the recipe calls for 2-4 cloves of garlic. Typically the garlic is used to flavor the oil which in turn gives flavor to the dish you are cooking. I used to cook quite a few Hunan dishes that are quite hot. Once when I was starting out I cooked a Christmas Chinese dinner for a group. Decided to double everything on one of the hot shrimp dishes. NEVER double the amount of dried hot pepper you are using to flavor the oil. I learned that by doing it and the shrimp were so spicy that they literally burned the tongue. Everyone raved on the other dishes but I honestly was not able to taste them properly because my taste buds were zapped. You live and learn.

Posted by pdtams

Patrick, Thanks for another recipe. Here's another:

• About 1-lb eel meat
•Dress and cut eels to 1-1.5" chunks
•Marinate with 1 TB white wine, 1 TB cornstarch1 TB, 1/3 tsp salt
•With a hot wok heat 3-4 TBs of oil
• Toss in some salt - tsp (into oil) to reduce the popping
• Toss in a handful of two-inch green onions
• Put in your eels and stir fry - depending on how hot your wok is this could take 2-4 minutes
•Add salt and pepper to taste
•Serve immediately - mmm, mmm — That's what my tummy said when my father-in-law came in with that dish at my wife's birthday dinner.

Posted by frozendog

Start with boneless, skinless eel fillets — cut out rib cage bones. Dip in beaten egg and Italian bread crumbs mixed with parmesan cheese. Saute in butter 3 or 4 minutes on first side, turn, cover pan, cook for one minute and turn off flame. Let it sit and steam to finish cooking. Won't burn and it will be juicy. Goes nice with fried rice.

Eel is also perfect size for fish tacos. Cut fillets to fit tortillas. I use a Cajun batter. Dip in batter and fry in oil quickly. Fry corn taco shells in hot oil. Spread shell with spicy mayo — hot sauce, mayo, chopped onion, cilantro - mixed to your taste. Add fish and top with your favorite salsa. We like to put slices of mango in our salsa to offset the Cajun spice batter. Goes good with coleslaw and sliced fruit. Enjoy!

Posted by frozendog

A tip: I always cut the throat of the fish I plan to keep and eat and throw it in a bucket of water to bleed out. Lightens the fish and fillets will also keep in the refrig for a week. Also, today for lunch, we took some "fish fingers" rockfish filets cut in finger-size pieces and dipped in egg, Italian bread crumbs and had our friendly neighborhood Chinese restaurant quick fry them in oil and served with wor wonton soup and fried rice. Easy way to stretch a lunch into a dinner. Wherever we've lived or vacationed, we have found a Chinese restaurant that will cook up our fish fingers — just have to ask. If you are ever in the Morro Bay area, try the Flying Dutchman on the embarcadero. We take filets there and they will cook it up fish and chips style (for a fair price). Just tell them that the guy with the mustache who brings in his fish referred you.

Posted by Songslinger

Fillet and skin them. Soak meat in bath of salted fresh water (about two tablespoons to a quart) for an hour. Pat dry, sprinkle on some black pepper, and roll in a 3:1 flour to cornmeal ratio. Sauté in virgin olive oil. Amazing.

Posted by eelmaster

Baked with hot Cajun rub. Drizzle w/butter when done. Mmmmm

Posted by eelmaster

I like em' filleted and baked with a spicy rub. With lots o' butta.

Posted by tomaurand

Dang Monte, that sounds really good. I'll have to try that one next. I like ‘em filleted, dipped in tempura flour/egg wash then panko (Japanese bread crumbs) then I throw them in my deep fryer. A really tasty way to cook eel. I think as sweet as the eel meat is there really is no wrong way to prepare the fish.

Posted by Rock Hopper

BBQ'ed is good, too.

Posted by DSRTEGL

Try smoking them. PLEASE! No jokes about not knowing which end to light. I like smoking mine and basting them with a mixture of honey, butter, and apple cider while they cook. Some crackers, cream cheese, olives, and finely chopped sweet Maui onion and I am all good.

Posted by Eelmaster

I have had my mother smoke a few for me. Very tasty. Monte

Posted by frozendog

Be sure to cut their throat and bleed them right after caught. The meat is far milder after the eel is bled. Unlike many people on this board, the wife and I find this fish to be the mildest (if it's bled) fish we have eaten besides sand dabs. They are easier to clean if you leave them in the ice chest over night.

Easiest recipe:
1. Cut each filet in serving size pieces. Dip in beaten egg. Shake in Italian breadcrumbs with a little parmesan cheese. Sauté in butter. Don't overcook.
2. Eel fillets are the perfect size and shape for fish tacos. Dip taco size fillets in a Cajun or beer batter. Serve with warm tortillas and favorite salsa. See dompfa Ben's recent post on tacos.
3. Barbeque in an aluminum foil boat. In a sauce pan, saute shallots and garlic in olive oil. Add the juice from 1/2 orange. Add orange zest and a little butter. Sliced fresh jalepeno chilis (optional) and a couple drops of honey. Pour the mixture over the eel in the boats and cook on bbq until flaky.
4. Also good for fish fingers. Slice fillets into finger size pieces. Roll in Italian breadcrumbs and deep fry quickly until lightly brown. Dip in favorite sauce—ranch dressing, tartar sauce.
Enjoy cooking. Let us know if you come up with anything else.
Last edited:
Monkeyface Gumbo

I caught a 3.5 lb eel last week. We made a double batch of this (and still there's eel in the freezer). I can't reccomend this enough. Having leftovers for the third or fourth time right now while the 49ers work on the Seahawks. Source is Kirk Lombard (or more likely his wife, Camilla Lombard) at I didn't use the amount of salt called for (I think it's a typo), and I subbed ordinary market shrimp for the coonstripes and some beef smoked sausage for the Italian sausage:


  • 1/4 pound Italian sausage, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 box chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Creole (or Old Bay) seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 pound whole coonstripe shrimp
  • 1/2 pound monkeyface eel, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Sautee sausage, set aside
  2. Heat oil, sautee onion, celery, and green pepper and cook until soft. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, reserved sausage, cover, and bring to a boil. Cook covered for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the flour and ½ cup water together, add spices and Worcesteshire, add to the pot, keep cooking for 10 more minutes
  4. Add coonstripe shrimp, monkeyface eel, reduce heat to medium, cook for 5 more minutes
  5. Add parsley and serve over rice.