26 Aug2009

slugs1

Sometimes, serendipity plays a role in providing material for the posts on marketmanila.com. While on the way to the Nasugbu market last Saturday, we decided to take a previously unplanned detour to check if there were any fishing boats (laden with a night’s catch) docking at the Wawa pier. No luck with the boats and fish, but I spotted this unusual open air “oven” with some pretty unusual looking stuff being dried… Sea slugs or sea cucumbers are those soft spongy creatures that we used to see in shallow waters of Batangas beaches as kids, and without care to any animal rights issues, we used to step on them to watch them firm up and shoot out a milky secretion. I suppose it isn’t a surprise then that many Chinese who consume vast amounts of dried sea slugs believe they are aphrodisiacs; but the whole association with phallic symbolism and male virility seems a bit too literal for me. It turns out that Chinese merchants have spread a very wide net to ensure a supply of this delicacy, with ships fanning out to Africa and the South Pacific for centuries of recorded history in search of dried sea slugs…

slugs2

According to the book “Asian Ingredients” by Bruce Cost, the sea slug (Holothuroidea) is now known as hai-shen in Chinese, or “ginseng of the sea” a marked improvement from its name in the 5th century hai-shu or “sea rat.” When harvested or caught the slugs are then dried until rock hard and then have to be soaked in water for several days before they are cooked. Once rehydrated and cooked, they are spongy, and absorb other flavors quite readily. You might have come across them in a really well prepared pancit, a hot and sour soup or other Chinese dish… I don’t count myself as a big fan of dried sea slugs, but will eat them as part of an overall dish or preparation. This was the first time, however, that I saw them being dried. I didn’t even know it was an ingredient we supplied to the export market. The crude makeshift oven was set up right near the shore, close to where the boats docked. It had tin on three sides and a wide open space out front. A wood-burning fire provided the heat and drying capabilities of the contraption. I tried to ask some locals in the Nasugbu market if they knew anything about this product and they just dismissed it as something that was sold for export and wasn’t available in local markets… So now you and I know better… :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. betty q. says:

    Are you kidding, MM? Tell them how to cook it! The sea cucumber is a delicacy here. served in banquets! MIL uses it for soup with the dried bean curd sticks…she also makes this braised dried shitaki mushrooms and adds the sea cucumber and served on top of steamed baby shanghai bok choy! Masaaaaaaaarap!!!!

    Aug 26, 2009 | 4:52 am

     
  2. Gay says:

    Hi MM, from what I learned from my zoo class, what you are referring to would be more commonly called sea cucumber rather than sea slugs. Sea slugs are from a different class of animals. I can’t remember the local name for that, but I remember eating them in pancit whenever we order pancit from a local take-out Chinese resto in Iligan.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 5:45 am

     
  3. natie says:

    after college, i lived with an aunt in Bacolod who had this business..i don’t know the source, but they sun-dried them and sold them to the chinese restaurants in the city…i could still remember the smell (not unpleasant, but like seaweeds/bivalve..)..we never cooked them. i know them as sea cucumber too…

    Aug 26, 2009 | 6:00 am

     
  4. pia l. says:

    Agree with Gay, sea slug is a wholly different thing from sea cucumber. I think what you are referring to is the sea cucumber (Holothurians). They are the ones that expel their internal organs as a form of defense. Never got the chance to taste one of these though.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 7:06 am

     
  5. Marketman says:

    The things we use to step on as kids were black and thinner than the ones being dried here in the photos. These ones photographed here are collected from deeper waters I am told. According to the reference books, the sea slugs (holothurioidea) are also referred to as sea cucumbers and Beche de mer, though I suspect there are many varieties of this creature. Both Bruce Cost’s book “Asian Ingredients” and Jacki Passmore’s book “The Encyclopedia of Asian Food & Cooking” list this ingredient under Sea Slug, though acknowledge that a common other name is Sea Cucumber.

    What might possibly confuse things more is the Sea Hare (dolabella auricularia) , whose secretions are widely consumed as a delicacy in the South, known as lukot, see this post here. And another on eating lukot, here.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 7:13 am

     
  6. pia l. says:

    In zoology though, what we were taught was that sea slugs belong to the phylum mollusca (clams, snails, etc.) while sea cucumbers belong to the phylum echinodermata (sea dollars, starfishes,sea urchins etc.). The word “Holothuroidea” is the name for the family which includes the sea cucumbers. They are also referred to as holothurians.

    I can see though how these animals can be confused for one another. They all look like the same slimy marine creature. :)

    Whoa, this discussion brought back memories of my biology days long past. :)

    Aug 26, 2009 | 7:28 am

     
  7. millet says:

    from this angle, they do look like rats..yikesss!

    Aug 26, 2009 | 8:32 am

     
  8. ingrid says:

    ah yes, sea cucumbers. we used to eat that in Binondo congee style po. Instead of the usual century egg thinly sliced sea cucumber ang topping and the place also serve the sea cucumbers braised with other seafood like abalone and razor clams. yummy!

    Aug 26, 2009 | 8:41 am

     
  9. Marketman says:

    pia l., that is fascinating… so perhaps the books are mistaken in referring to them commonly as sea slugs… but save themselves by also saying they are called sea cucumbers. At any rate, I think most who have come across them in the shallow waters will probably know the general category of soft slimy spongy things. Thanks. :)

    Aug 26, 2009 | 8:42 am

     
  10. natie says:

    i remember also, when you poke one hard enough, it squirts some kind of clear fluid, much like one peeing..this invoked lots of shrieks and laughter— happy, carefree childhood days :-)

    Aug 26, 2009 | 9:05 am

     
  11. Eden Claire says:

    In my Mindanao, i think this is called “Balat”. My uncle used to catch this in Quezon province, and the locals there call this “Balatan”….

    Aug 26, 2009 | 10:20 am

     
  12. jing says:

    Our dormitory custodian used to bring us to Lapaz in Iloilo during low tide one summer so we can pick ‘balat’ in the muddy shores. It was such an unforgettable experience with a backdrop of the wide expanse of ankle-high water you’d think you can ‘walk’ your way across to Guimaras Island, and the intermittable shrieks of the girls and raucous laughter that ensue when someone ‘catches’ one. Or when you suddenly find yourself knee-deep in mud when you least expected it :)

    “What is long and soft, engorges and gets hard when you hold it, then squirts out fluid from one end?”

    Hehehe! Balat ang answer uy! Though its so much the same as what you’re thinking hahaha!!

    So sad there’s no more balat there now…

    Aug 26, 2009 | 11:24 am

     
  13. Marketfan says:

    What do they call sea slugs in the Visayas? I think these are what we saw in the shallow waters (during low tide) of Bohol Beach Club last summer. Really slimy looking and we didn’t dare them touch them because we thought they were some kind of jelly fish which might be poisonous. They were light colored and almost translucent.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 12:40 pm

     
  14. Marketfan says:

    oops sorry, many of you already mentioned that they are sea cucumbers and not sea slugs..so what is the Visayan term for this?

    Aug 26, 2009 | 12:41 pm

     
  15. Marketman says:

    Marketfan, Cebuanos call them b’at or bat, and eat them sliced with vinegar kinilaw style.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 12:58 pm

     
  16. Rose5 says:

    Ahh… i think its called bat or batule here in Cebu…but havent seen dried ones only kinilaw na bat in two colors the white ones and the black one which is hard…

    Aug 26, 2009 | 1:03 pm

     
  17. meng says:

    visayan call it balatan.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 1:27 pm

     
  18. Marketman says:

    Two separate photos of b’at or bat or balatan salads in this post from last year

    Aug 26, 2009 | 1:31 pm

     
  19. erleen says:

    no pictures of fresh ones?

    Aug 26, 2009 | 2:07 pm

     
  20. foodjunkie says:

    Saw dried sea cucumbers being sold in food marts in Nanjing Rd, Shanghai. I cannot remember the exact price but I think they cost around RMB1500 per 500g roughly Php10K++.

    Aug 26, 2009 | 3:42 pm

     
  21. denise says:

    i once saw a documentary about people who catch these…since it is in deeper waters they use air compressors as makeshift scuba gear which causes nitrogen building up in the body which eventually leads to crippling…for a few hundred pesos

    Aug 26, 2009 | 5:12 pm

     
  22. Dew says:

    I had sea cucumber stomach a few years back in Otaru Japan. Nothing outstanding about it! LOL.

    Aug 27, 2009 | 7:27 am

     
  23. millet says:

    like bird’s nest, shark’s fin, white fungus (tree mushrooom), beef tendon (litid) and tofu, it’s not the taste but the texture and its ability to absorb other flavors that make sea cucumber a prized ingredient in chinese cuisine.

    i’ve tried the visayan salad (like kinilaw) version of this…it’s good, but i wonder, is it made from fresh “ba’t”, or from dried and rehydrated ones?

    Aug 27, 2009 | 8:29 am

     
  24. kurzhaar says:

    The confusion is due to the common (and totally unscientific) names “sea slugs” and “sea cucumbers”. Biology books will probably say something like this:

    Sea slugs are shell-less relatives of snails, most of these are nudibranchs although there are other types such as sacoglossans. Many nudibranchs contain quite toxic compounds. “Sea hares” are one family of nudibranchs (genera Dolabella and Aplysia…Aplysia californica is very common in California). Sea hares graze on algae.

    Sea cucumbers are holothurians and are thus relatives of starfish, sea urchins, and such. They have quite fascinating skeletons.

    (wearing my biologist’s hat)

    Aug 27, 2009 | 12:57 pm

     
  25. ron tan says:

    Hi! I can source out sea cucumbers. may we know who the buyers are for this item so we can market it to them?

    Aug 31, 2009 | 11:42 am

     
  26. Maria says:

    hi! Does anyone knows how to prepare a dried sea cucumber to have it ready to cook? I’ ve read several recipes but they say different things… other says to soak for 4 days, other to soak for 2 hours and then boil, let get cold and boil again and again…. what is right and what wrong?

    Sep 14, 2009 | 4:08 am

     
  27. Jerry says:

    Im looking for sea cucumber supplier in Philippines. Contact me if you r in this business.
    09081923965

    Jan 4, 2010 | 11:12 pm

     
  28. c o says:

    @ron tan, where does your sea cucumber be coming from? thanks chrisoksie@yahoo.com

    Jun 25, 2010 | 11:41 am

     
  29. sponge bob and I got squarepants says:

    I remember as a kid seeing sea cucumbers at aquariums where you could touch them. they explode there inside out violently startling the heck out of you so you drop him back in the water. A survival technique. In Key West there are sea cucumbers all over the shallow bottoms. I read that sea cucumbers produce opals I went to find an opal in a sea cucumber but before I could open it up it exploded in my hands and I dropped it imediatly in the water scrubbing the opal mining idea. Sponges are vial when you clean them but atleast they dont shoot guts out.

    Jul 5, 2010 | 12:13 am

     
  30. aminpuh says:

    Hi everyone, i have stocks to spare for anyone interested in dried sea cucumber. Currently, i am tasked to purchase only hanginan. Anyone interested in other species like putian, buli buli, and susuan can contact me anytime. products are from southernmost (tawitawi group of islands) part of the philippines. Cheers!

    09192609160, aminpuh@gmail.com

    Aug 16, 2010 | 1:31 pm

     
  31. phillip says:

    MM, hi everyone, i have a lot of well and dried sea cucumbers and i am looking for a good buyers in our products like all kinds of dried sea cucumbers.
    if you are interested in this line of business you can contact me:09351889546/loc.(08822)746003 or you can check on my email add:phillip_adran2000@yahoo.com/ or on my facebook account:phillip_adran, you can view my downloaded video about dried sea cucumber…godbless and thank you market manila more power to you all!

    Sep 3, 2010 | 12:37 pm

     
  32. Marissa says:

    Hi, I’m looking for dry sea cucumber supplier (hanginan). Send your best price at maris_ddm@yahoo.com..tnx!

    Jan 26, 2011 | 4:38 pm

     
  33. philip says:

    Hi, interested to import dried sea cucumber. Only serious sellers are welcome. Give me your best price with long term deal. email : philipng1268@yahoo.com H/P: +60162847983 Malaysia

    Mar 21, 2011 | 8:28 am

     
  34. grace taroballes says:

    hi, were looking for a supplier of dreid sea cucumber mainly sourced in our phillipine sea. pls contact us at 09213861174. hope for further collaborations. thanks

    Jul 10, 2011 | 4:31 pm

     
  35. rolly cuaresma says:

    hello everyone, im rolly, i just want you to know that i can supply you sea cocumber as many as you want, feel free to contact me in this #, 09497524789

    Jul 13, 2011 | 11:28 am

     
 

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