Sea Cucumber: An Unusual Food with Health Benefits

While you may not be familiar with sea cucumbers, they’re considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures. Not to be confused with vegetables, sea cucumbers are marine animals. They live on sea floors throughout the world, but the greatest population is found in the Pacific Ocean.

Most sea cucumbers resemble large worms or caterpillars and have soft, tubular bodies. They are gathered by divers or farmed commercially in large, artificial ponds.In addition to their culinary appeal, sea cucumbers are used in traditional folk medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments.


How are sea cucumbers used?

Sea cucumbers have been used as a food source and medicinal ingredient in Asian and Middle Eastern countries for centuries. In fact, they have been fished from the Pacific Ocean for over 170 years. These slug-like animals are used either fresh or dried in various dishes, though the dried form is by far the most commonly used.


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The Abalone

What Is Abalone?
Abalone is a gastropod mollusk that lives in coastal saltwater. A member of the Haliotidae family, it ranges in size from 4 to 10 inches. Like other univalve snails, it has a single shell on top and uses a large foot to cling to rocks and eat algae. The abalone shell is flat and spiral-shaped with several small holes around the edges. Its other names include ear shells and sea ears because of its shell shape. The interior of the shell is an iridescent mother of pearl (nacre) pattern that is as prized as the meat it protects.
The popularity of abalone led to overfishing and nearly brought the shellfish to extinction. Both white and black abalone that live off the California coast are on the endangered species list and it is illegal to gather wild abalone from the oceans in many parts of the world. Due to careful management practices and strict harvesting regulations, wild abalone populations are making a comeback. Farmed abalone is increasingly available.
How to Cook Abalone
To prepare abalone, it must be shucked, cleaned, and tenderized or the meat will have a rubbery texture. The abalone attaches to its shell with a solid round muscle at the bottom. To gently release the meat from the shell, a wide, flat, wooden spatula works well. It is sometimes soaked, blanched, or frozen prior to shelling. The viscera (guts), black edges, and tough outer skin is then removed. All parts are edible, but eating these trimmed pieces is a matter of taste and careful preparation so they're often discarded.

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Fish Maw (Yu Piu / 魚鰾 or Fa Gau / 花膠)

Fish maw is dried swim bladders of large fishes like sturgeon. Despite being seemingly an inferior fish product to many, fish maw is exalted in the Chinese community as a delicacy.

Besides, it is a good source of collagen used in food industry to create water-resistant glue. It’s spongy texture allows it to absorb the flavours of other ingredients.

Fresh fish maw is cleaned, dried and occasionally deep-fried. However, the owner of the Chinese medicinal shop to me that deep-frying is not recommended and no longer practiced as the fish maw will turn rancid quickly.

Anonymous | October 5, 2016 |
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