14 Mar2014

Dried Sea Cucumbers

by Marketman

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Still in Northern Cebu, I also came across some dried sea cucumber, changing hands for amazing amounts of money. At PHP1,000-4,000 for a kilo of these dried creatures, I was more than intrigued. They kind of reminded my of the incredibly priced bird’s nests from Palawan, here. Amazing what things folks (in this case the Chinese predominantly I was told) scour the world for to get a particular texture, flavor or aphrodisiac effect. The bowl above, with just 200 grams of dried sea cucumbers were PHP200 at the source. Take this to Hong Kong and I gather they are worth several times more…

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Take some brightly colored…

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…and not so brightly colored sea cucumbers (there are dozens of varieties, and the type matters)…

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…and boil them up in large cauldrons with salted water and papaya leaves over a wood fire. Stir occasionally.

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Strain the boiled sea cucumbers after several minutes of cooking…

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…and roast/dry them for an hour or more over low heat, using charcoal. The screen is placed over a low fire and the sea cucumbers dry out and shrink dramatically in size.

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The vendor explained that one type of sea cucumber (the smaller one in the back of the photo above) would command roughly PHP1000 a kilo once dried, while the premium sea cucumber in front would get roughly PHP4,000 per kilo. I suppose the one in front hydrates and cooks up into nice meaty pieces and has an incredible ability to sop up other flavors in a dish… this is a delicacy I have to admit I am not familiar with. I have eaten sea cucumbers in pancit and other braised dishes before, but I never went out of my way to consume them.

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The fresh creature is sliced and rinsed…

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…isn’t it ginormous?

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Then boiled in the salt and papaya broth…

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And grilled until dry. An added step of burying it in rock salt for several hours is sometimes done to ensure that it is well preserved and doesn’t spoil. The smells in this place were a bit unusual to say the least…

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With mini-mountains of dried sea cucumbers, this is a serious business enterprise with perhaps PHP20,000+ changing hands on an average morning. Several folks came from near and far and pulled out little sacks or bags filled with half, one or several kilos of dried sea cucumbers to sell to the vendor (who also dried his own). He estimated some 18-20 kilos or more of sea cucumbers were needed to get one kilo of dried sea cucumbers (that suggests they are 90+% water.

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Each dried sea cucumber is sorted and selected INDIVIDUALLY to ensure they are of the right species, quality and properly processed. I watched from nearby, just simply fascinated by it all. I know bettyq left a few suggestions on my last sea cucumber post many years ago, here, but if any of you have good ideas for my precious 200grams, please leave me a comment below. Thanks.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. betty q. says:

    Frozen sea cucumbers were on sale at the Asian store last week…ready to cook! MIL usually makes it for New Year’s with the “hair” and bean curd sticks but I need not wait for New Year to have this comfort food in soup minus the “hair”.

    Aha…you gave me an idea, MM…will make those triangle sticky rice, make braised sea cucumbers together with shitaki and use it as one of the palaman among others! Sadly, I have no one to pass on the skill of making it taught to me by MIL for the boys are not interested in learning how to make it!

    MM…google the health benefits of sea cucumber and people whose age is catching up to them like me will highly benefit from eating them!

    Mar 14, 2014 | 2:55 pm

     
  2. millet says:

    never saw the reason for the fuss and the high prices of sea cucumber. a friend makes huge bowls of sea cucumber salad – blanched, and prepared like kinilaw, with cucumbers and radish.

    Mar 14, 2014 | 3:06 pm

     
  3. Marketman says:

    millet, fresh then blanched then kinilawed? That’s a Cebuano Sunday dish served with lechon et al… I need to try that one day soon as well…

    Mar 14, 2014 | 3:10 pm

     
  4. Kurt says:

    My dad says that it’s one of the ingredients of a Chinese seafood hotpot. It’s strange how some expensive Chinese ingredients like sea cucumber, shark’s fin, and abalone offer little more than texture and flavor absorption.

    Mar 14, 2014 | 6:06 pm

     
  5. Thel from Florida says:

    I learned something new today–very interesting! Thank you kindly for this info. Cheers!

    Mar 14, 2014 | 8:18 pm

     
  6. betty q. says:

    A tip, MM in choosing dried ones. FIL said…4 Ms…MATUWID na MATABA na MALAKI at MAGAAN! And para isa na hirap in rehydrating them, buy more than you need for it takes the same amount of time considering the work involved cleaning a few and cleaning a lot…soaking and cleaning, boiling and soaking again and brushing, etc. Rehydrated ones then can be frozen after.

    Mar 14, 2014 | 9:47 pm

     
  7. Sonny says:

    Hi, Can you tell me how and where I can buy these dried seacucumber from this whole seller ? I am going to the Tuna Fest in Gen San in September.
    Thanks

    Sonny

    Mar 14, 2014 | 10:41 pm

     
  8. psychomom says:

    this is one dish that i can not get enough of! i remember my Amah putting it in Chinese adobo, soups or stir fried with shitake mushrooms, abalone over some greens. maybe i can make a side trip to Cebu next time i go home, load up on danggit, other dried fish and dried sea cucumbers. thank you for bringing back memories.

    Mar 15, 2014 | 3:01 am

     
  9. bakerwannabe says:

    My father used to cook these with pork, soy sauce, hebi and some mushroom. He always said that sea cucumber by itself has no taste but it takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with.

    Bettq, I love the “hair”. I always make sure I have a supply. It is actually seaweeds.

    Mar 15, 2014 | 3:59 am

     
  10. millet says:

    yes, MM..that’s how it’s mostly done here.

    Mar 15, 2014 | 10:47 am

     
  11. Cheng says:

    Chinese restaurants usually prepare them braised with big shitake mushrooms in brown sauce. I assume they use really good soup stock to make this sauce, hence making it very flavorful. It’s a classic Chinese dish.

    My FIL’s go-to restaurant is Century Seafood Restaurant in Ermita, where he usually orders off the menu, depending on what’s fresh for the day. The best time to go is during off peak days when there are no 100-table lauriat weddings and you get consistently excellent dishes coming out of the kitchen, still hot, prepared by Cantonese chefs.

    Sea cucumbers are quite expensive in Binondo, but even more expensive overseas so we’ve heard of stories where Chinese based in Hong Kong buy lots of them to take home.

    Mar 15, 2014 | 12:57 pm

     
  12. Zerho says:

    I wonder what the papaya leaves impart to the sea cucumber. Perhaps this can be done on other broths?

    Mar 15, 2014 | 9:10 pm

     
  13. millet says:

    i suppose the papaya leaves are meant to tenderize the sea cucumber.

    Mar 16, 2014 | 9:25 am

     
  14. rosedmd says:

    Bettyq!! I am interested to learn from you….I am a bus away. Just let me know…please

    Mar 16, 2014 | 11:43 am

     
  15. ellen says:

    sliced, stir fried with ginger and a little rice wine. simple :)

    Mar 17, 2014 | 12:24 am

     
  16. proteinshake says:

    My Amah (fujian for grandma) would make this adobo style braise as well. She would add shitake mushroom, scallops and whatever seafood. My Angin (Toisan cantonese for grandma) makes heres in a stew with dried scallops and dried oysters. Here in Vancouver the finer northern chinese restaurants can make sea cucumbers braised in a brown sauce with seafood and abalone mushrooms.

    Mar 17, 2014 | 8:55 am

     
  17. Boopsie says:

    i saw some dried sea cucumbers in my zambales trip. i bought some and made it into a soup. after 3 hours of boiling they were inedible due to its umm firmness. Maybe the vendor forgot the papaya leaves in his process.

    Mar 19, 2014 | 4:02 pm

     
  18. Michelle says:

    Please list some whole seller name and contact in Manila or Cebu .Thanks

    Mar 19, 2014 | 6:21 pm

     
  19. Sonny says:

    Please list some whole seller name and contact in Manila or Cebu .Thanks

    Mar 21, 2014 | 1:11 pm

     
  20. Sonny says:

    Hello, any news or information ?
    Please list some whole seller name and contact in Manila or Cebu .Thanks

    Apr 1, 2014 | 5:04 pm

     
  21. Ai Ling says:

    Please list some whole seller name and address in Manila . Thanks

    Aug 11, 2014 | 10:29 am

     
  22. raxxx says:

    Hi, I’m here in australia working as a ofw our main product is sea cucumber and the species here in australia are so big and very excellent in quality,, we process it, we cooked it,, we got variety of species from cheap one to expensive one,, if you are interested to buy,, we can negotiate it and i will ask my boss for discount.. my email rjumaos@yahoo.com

    Aug 22, 2014 | 3:07 pm

     
  23. tootsie says:

    hi, im selling dried sea cucumber (from bicol). if interested you can reach me tootsiepadie@yahoo.com or you can call me 09167988059. thank you.

    Sep 12, 2014 | 11:51 am

     

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