On my previous entry on seaweed, a regular reader Gigi pointed out that some people refer to the â€œchewy stringsâ€ in cold appetizer platters at Chinese restaurants as â€œseaweedâ€ when they are, in fact, â€œjellyfish.â€ 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 â€œstuffâ€ was called jellyfish but all those years I just made myself believe it was something elseâ€¦ Iâ€™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 snappyâ€¦ I once learned how to water ski in Hamilo cove in Batangas and it took me just 12 minutes or three attemptsâ€¦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 I 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 wonderâ€¦ 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 â€“ fat free protein and good for the bones to boot! This second photo is brilliant, isnâ€™t it? I took it but I donâ€™t dive. I just paid the entrance fee to the Singapore aquariumâ€¦heehee.