06 Oct2005

Jellyfish

by Marketman

On my previous entry on seaweed, a regular reader Gigi pointed out that some jell1people refer to the “chewy strings” in cold appetizer platters at Chinese restaurants as “seaweed” when they are, in fact, “jellyfish.” Growing up, there were dozens of occasions when this infamous cold Chinese appetizer platter would arrive table side, and then placed on the grease-streaked glass lazy susan (remember those?). Frankly, I knew the “stuff” was called jellyfish but all those years I just made myself believe it was something else… I’m not sure why, but I thought there was no way it could really be jellyfish because all of the jellyfish I had ever met were just way too soft, wispy, slimy, icky to result in something crunchy, chewy, rubbery and snappy… I once learned how to water ski in Hamilo cove in Batangas and it took me just 12 minutes or three attempts…why? Because I realized the entire cove was filled with THOUSANDS of humongous horror movie like jellyfish and I decided I did not want to spend any more time wading in the waters than absolutely necessary. Trust me, that story a few years back that a Luzon wide black-out was triggered by the shutdown of a power plant that had accidentally sucked in thousands of humongous jellyfish as part of its seawater cooling system is something I can totally believe!

At any rate, I was always generally lukewarm to the jellyfish on those appetizer platters just like I was mortified by the black eggs (most men can probably relate) and jell2I simply made a beeline for the roast pork. Why jellyfish is such a big deal still eludes me. It is totally tasteless and simply serves as a good vehicle for delivering soy, sesame or other flavorings to your mouth. I am told I am a jellyfish heathen, and that I need to learn how to appreciate the crunch, the snap, the texture that for connoisseurs is actually graded and results in truly wickedly expensive specimens of the stuff. So, what is it? It really is jellyfish! The photo above was taken at El Nido, Palawan several months back. I have no idea if this particular jellyfish is edible but it was photogenic. It committed hara kiri on one of the nicest beaches around, thank goodness I had a camera to record its last moments. There are several varieties of edible jellyfish but the most common is one known as Rhipolema esculenta. Slices of the dome or umbrella part of this jellyfish are dried. Buyers soak the dried stuff in water overnight and roll it up tightly and slice, resulting in rubber band like material that is blanched and eaten with relish by fans of this textural wonder… The tentacles, contrary to what some believe, are not used. Apparently, the Philippines with its 7,107 islands (is that at high or low tide?) is one of the main sources for this sought after delicacy. And just in case you wondered, the OLDER jellyfish yield a thinner skin that is more pricey and sought after. Finally, it is eaten not just because a large part of the human population likes chewing rubber bands but it turns out it is extremely healthy – fat free protein and good for the bones to boot! This second photo is brilliant, isn’t it? I took it but I don’t dive. I just paid the entrance fee to the Singapore aquarium…heehee.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Butch says:

    Aside from being an appetizer, are there other ways to serve it?

    Oct 6, 2005 | 10:51 am

     
  2. Gigi says:

    I surfed the Net and nothing new turned up. Just different ways of serving it as an appetizer – with sesame seed, with vinegar, dried and tossed in a salad – wonder how that one fares…

    Marketman — I dunno how to articulate how I feel about that first photo — “disgustingly fascinated” comes close … It’s gross and stunning and visually hard to decipher — what is it that I’m looking at? Did the jellyfish turn belly up?
    Looks like the 80s dessert my mother used to make with the rough gulaman bar and set using that yellow Tupperware mold with scallop grooves. How retro….

    Oct 6, 2005 | 6:21 pm

     
  3. Gigi says:

    The appeal of jellyfish to me is precisely the taste of the sea and the snap. And the fact too that it’s a healthy eat. I love to dip this one in the chili oil and ginger sauce and eat it with century egg. Yung Kee in Hong Kong serves this skillfully. ;)

    Oct 6, 2005 | 6:25 pm

     
  4. wysgal says:

    There’s something about the (yummy?) gooey chewiness of jellyfish that has me slurping it up in many a Chinese restaurant.

    And I was just about to ask if you were a scuba diver before I read that you took the photo in an aquarium. =)

    Oct 6, 2005 | 10:49 pm

     
  5. Marketman says:

    Butch, I am not aware of alternative recipes or uses… maybe its best cold or it will disintegrate? Gigi, yup, the critter is upside down with its short stubby tentacles facing the sky. And apparently it is incredibly healthy. Wysgal,funny how texture has so many hooked…apparently on its own, it has little if any actual flavor, its the dip or dressing that you are tasting most…

    Oct 7, 2005 | 5:45 am

     
  6. Mila says:

    Maybe it’s the “umami” of jellyfish, that untranslate-able taste that we like about it.
    I’d rather eat jellies than chicken feet anyday though. Both are about the same on my personal list of unappealing looking food, but at least jellies don’t have the claw/toes that some chinese restos (especially in china) keep when serving them. Eeek. I always feel like taking out a nailclipper and nailfile when they are served.

    Oct 7, 2005 | 9:07 am

     
  7. acidboy says:

    hmmm… i’m wondering if jellyfish, tossed with lato, with a light sesame oil based dressing and some other stuff “na bagay” would make a good salad?

    Oct 7, 2005 | 12:29 pm

     
  8. Marketman says:

    acidboy, that combination certainly sounds like it could work…maybe some steamed shrimp or prawns to give it some body?

    Oct 8, 2005 | 4:13 pm

     
  9. IvanM says:

    MM,

    I would never have touched a jelly fish dish if it were served as the one in your first pic..eek! I like it in long strips thank you. Apparently, there are ‘fake’ jellyfish being served in restos(im not sure how theyre made of) as there are ‘fake’ abalones and birds nest soup. Ive tried those instant jelly fish packs and theyre as crunchy as chiz curls! Me wonders if theyre the real thing….

    Oct 10, 2005 | 10:52 pm

     
  10. Marketman says:

    IvanM, maybe the instant ones need some soaking? I imagine the faked jellyfish must be made out of something even more bizarre… just like all those fake crabsticks for california maki that are made out of smushed cod or other fish…

    Oct 11, 2005 | 5:04 am

     
  11. suzette says:

    all along, i really thought it was seaweed! thanks for the info! next time when i order my favorite chinese appetizer, i’ll say “waiter, can i have century eggs and JELLYFISH please”

    Oct 14, 2005 | 4:40 pm

     
  12. gino says:

    one of my tito’s client, a chinese businessman, gave him 2 packs of processed jellyfish. it’s a bit gummy.

    Jan 21, 2007 | 10:24 pm

     
  13. disco stu says:

    hey please please please can u tell me who i can contact re: keeping live jellyfish properly, and also who can get some live or fresh on import into the uk????
    Yours,
    avid fan
    xxxxxx

    Jun 13, 2007 | 3:31 am

     
  14. glo says:

    Never knw they’re edible. Used to stay away from those gummy creatures because of the sting. Thanks for the info. Got to try it.

    Aug 22, 2007 | 9:42 am

     
  15. musicologist says:

    I’ve always loved the jellyfish cold dish served in Chinese restuarants. See, I’m a Singaporean Chinese. Growing up, I’ve always had the chance of eating it during Chinese new year celebrations & Chinese wedding banquets. It’s usually my favourite item on the cold dish appetiser, other than sashimi, if it’s included.

    In Singapore, we can also get the pre-packed processed jellyfish in most supermarkets. They come in a variety of flavours, but somehow, they never tasted as good as tt of the restuarnts. The texture is the same – springy & cruchy, but the seasonings used r diff.

    & hey, ur 2nd pic is taken at UnderWater World, Sentosa Island, Singapore! I’ve been there so many times as a child. There’s 1 species of jellyfish tt’s SO CUTE & tiny.

    Jan 15, 2008 | 4:10 pm

     
  16. Zach Allen says:

    Sitting here watchng Bizarre Foods on TV and it reminded me I had tried jellyfish about a month ago at a restaurant in Chicago’s China town. I was wondering what part of the jellyfish I had eaten. The way it was served in long stringy strips does look like tentacles, but you have proven otherwise. Thanks for the info.
    Probably never have it again due to the blandness, but it was worth trying.

    Jul 25, 2008 | 12:26 pm

     
  17. Guerino says:

    Apparently 98% of most jellyfish specimen anatomy is water, so basically you are spending shit loads of money on water with seasoning. I’d say eating jellyfish would be like eating water flavoured jelly. My attraction to jellyfish is their look, exotic colour, biolumniscent or luminous appearance, as a raver it’s easy to appreciate something that creates light to make the whole rave experience that much better. Other than that jellyfish are useless, flavourless, mindless blobs of water and poison hanging around like welfare trash.

    Sep 22, 2008 | 2:39 pm

     
  18. iyoy says:

    guerino,

    if your experience has been limited to rehydrated jellyfish served in chinese restos,you probably have no idea how close to the truth your remarks are. in panay, fresh jellyfish is rubbed with pulverized mangrove tree bark, giving it an orange-y color. this is probably to remove the itch, but this is just a guess. it is sold in the market in inch-thick slabs. at home, cut into cubes and dipped in vinegar with lots of ginger. more chewy than gelatin (the outer membrane is in fact tough) with the tang of the sea like seaweed. in the province, i will pop a few pieces into my mouth when the dish is offered by a tuba-drinking host, but otherwise not among the delicacies i miss in the city. actually, not really expensive at all. cheap, very cheap in fact for the following reason. the water leaches out and after a few hours the vendor is left with what looks like two pieces of somewhat thick wet cellophane stuck together. the joke is the jelly fish seller, like the ice seller, has no worries about being stuck with unsold inventory.

    Jan 1, 2009 | 5:31 pm

     
 

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