Jellied eels are a traditional English dish that originated in the 18th century, primarily in London's East End. The dish consists of chopped eels boiled in a spiced stock that is allowed to cool and set, forming a jelly. It can be eaten hot or cold.
The eel was a cheap, nutritious and readily available food source for the people of London; European eels were once so common in the Thames that nets were set as far upriver as London itself, and eels became a staple for London's poor.
The first "Eel Pie & Mash Houses" opened in London in the 18th century, and the oldest surviving shop, M Manze, has been open since 1902.
Although jellied eels are nowhere near as popular today as they were—at the end of the Second World War there were as many as a hundred Eel Pie & Mash Houses in London—they can still be found in the Eel Pie & Mash Houses that remain, and in some supermarkets. The water quality of the Thames has improved since the 1960s and is now suitable for recolonisation by eels—indeed, the Environment Agency supports a Thames fishery, allowing nets as far upriver as Tower Bridge—but lessened demand for cheap nutrition, competition from other foods and changing tastes mean that they have been marginalised.
The dish is traditionally prepared using the freshwater eels native to Britain. Typically, the eels are chopped into rounds and boiled in water and vinegar, to make a fish stock, with nutmeg and lemon juice before being allowed to cool. The eel is a naturally gelatinous fish so the cooking process releases proteins, like collagen, into the liquid which solidify on cooling to form a jelly, though gelatin may be added in order to aid this process. Recipes for jellied eels are individual to particular London pie and mash shops, and also street sellers; however, traditional recipes for authentic Victorian jellied eels all have common ingredients and cooking methods. What alters is the choice of herbs and spices used to flavour the dish.
Outside the UK 
Italy has a similar dish known simply as anguilla (literally, "eel"), which is eaten with balsamic rather than chili vinegar. In France the dish is known as aspic d'anguille, and in Germany as Aal in Aspik; both terms mean "jellied eel".
The Basque Country is famous for a wormlike dish known as "txitxardin" in Basque, or "angulas" in Spanish. These are baby eels, or elvers, which are usually prepared in olive oil, garlic, and peppers.
- "FACT SHEET – East End Food & Drink" (Doc). VisitEastLondon.co.uk. VisitEastLondon.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- Copping, Jasper (2007-06-18). "Eels in danger of slipping off the menu". The Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Ltd). Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- Naismith, I. A.; B. Knights (2005-04-04). "The distribution, density and growth of the European eel, Anguilla anguilla, in the freshwater catchment of the River Thames". Journal of Fish Biology 42 (2): 217–226. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1993.tb00323.x. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- "Commercial Fisheries in the Thames Estuary". ThamesWEB. ThamesWEB.com. Archived from the original on 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- Mark Kurlansky (2000). The Basque History of the World. Vintage Books. ISBN 9780099284130.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Jellied eels|
- http://www.pie-and-mash.com Website dedicated to an appreciation of Pie, Mash and Eels.
- http://www.barneys-seafood.co.uk The website of Barneys Seafood with links to their eels and stories about Eastend food culture and social history.
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A8573132 Background
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/netnotes/article/0,6729,680948,00.html Jellied eels story at The Guardian, 8 April 2002
- Would you Adam and Eve it? Jellied eels hit by over-fishing London Evening Standard, 3 January 2012.
- Jellied Eel is also the name of the quarterly magazine of London Food Link , the network for food businesses, writers and campaigners promoting healthy and sustainable food in London (UK on the website of Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming