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Jellyfish Revisited

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Unusual Ingredients

Spring Volume: 2013 Issue: 20(1) page(s): 31 - 32

Not new, though some do deem them novel, others disagree and call them rubbberbands. Pengzu, in the 21st century BCE ate and loved them; so did Yi Ya a lot later (770 - 476 BCE). Yi Yin was a respected Imperial cook and Prime Minister, circa 200 BCE; he thought jellysifh respected Imperial food as did others before him, some in the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BCE). Thereafter, Man-Han banquets always served them, Imperial emperors through the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 CE) did too, and China's last emperor, Puyi (1901 - 1967 CE) adored them. There are no emperors in China any more, yet eating jellyfish remains an honorific that has not gone out of style.

These strange-looking critters have no heart, no brain, and no bones. They bob along on or under the top of seawater, and look like unlikely food sources. Still popular in many Asian cultures, the Chinese among them, there are plenty of them to enjoy. If you are purchasing and planning to prepare them, select carefully and avoid ones such as the Australian box jellyfish; it has more toxin in its tentacles than a cobra's snake venom. That said, do not gather or collect them, purchase them instead from a reliable source.

Sellers of jellyfish have already removed their venom and the parts where that is found. So be grateful because they know what not to take. There are more than two hundred different kinds of these creatures worldwide, creatures who use their mouths to swim, take in water, pump it out, and see that their wastes leave by the same route. Jellyfish eat plankton, many different types of larvae, very baby fish, even baby sea horses. Their food goes into their mouth and down a siphon to provide them sustenance. Tentacles of jellyfish can paralyze larger animals; they eat them, too, at that point. Many say that jellyfish have no taste, just lots of fat-free chewy texture, chewier if over-cooked. The Chinese like them and all foods with lots of texture. Many believe there is a brain-health connection, and if one eats lots of them, one gets smarter.

Jellyfish can be fifteen or twenty-inches in diameter and when served allow sauce and seasoning to cling to them. People know their tastes have great potential; cooking them quickly and correctly is smart, too. These days, several jellyfish researchers advise that jellyfish keep brain cells living longer, and make man's thinking sharper. They have proteins in the same class as apoaequorin and various diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and ALS show considerable loss of these proteins. These calcium-binding proteins do decrease with age, so keeping them in proper balance is important; too little calcium and one does not think clearly.

If you do not think of jellyfish as an honorific food, the above information may change your thinking, even your consumption of these bob-along critters. Chinese history has always had a special regard for jellyfish, seems science might, as well.

As indicated, we do not recommend going out and getting your own as they do sting. Commercially, once harvested, jellyfish tentacles are removed, and their tops dried. After you purchase them, some suggest you soak them for eight or so hours changing that water several times. Commercially, most venders have already done that.

This magazine has written about jellyfish more than once. The first article was called: Unusual Ingredients that Some Call Precious, Others Exotic. That article was in our second year in Volume 2 of the Summer 1995 issue on pages 11, 12, and 13. It is on our website, and does not have a recipe for jellyfish. The second article, also on our website, was in Volume 13(2) on pages 7, 8, and 21, and is called: Jellyfish: A Royal Texture Food. Volume 18(1) was the third article about Jellyfish and Jellyfish Head; it appeared in 2011 in Volume 18(1) on pages 5 and 37. There are recipes in these last two articles. Find them in the Unusual Ingredients category in the recipe listings; they are in other locations, as well. Many queries about how to handle them cross our desk. That said, here is some help and another few recipes, as well. Enjoy them and the fact that they can be prepared long before guests come; and that they are very easy to prepare.
Preparing Jellyfish
When you buy jellyfish commercially, be they whole or slivered, rinse them well; many have been preserved with lots of salt. Then, drop them into boiling water for less than half a minute. We do ours for twenty seconds on the clock. That short amount of time will keep them from getting rubbery. Then fish them out fast and next quickly drop them into cold, preferably ice water. Then drain and slice them finely into slivers. If purchased whole, the way we prefer purchasing, they are ready to prepare. Should you purchase yours in plastic bags, whether refrigerated or frozen, before any of the above, rinse them thoroughly, then go on to the soaking step.

Jellyfish can then be used blanched as above, tossed with vinegar and other flavorings, or stir-fried. If doing the latter, do that very quickly, too. Below are a few recipes to expand your use of these bobbing swimming critters. That can enable you to enjoy them more than ever before. When cooking them, do that very quickly, too.

This is really a pre-preparation step; it needs to be done before any and every jellyfish recipe.

Cold Jellyfish
8 ounce plastic packet jellyfish, soaked in cold water eight hours, then blanched in boiling water half minute, and rinsed in ice water, then slivered
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchstick-size pieces
1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
2 Tablespoons shaoxing wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
6 drops hot oil
1. Prepare the jelly fish as indicated in the ingredients list.
2. On a serving plate, place cucumbers matchstick pieces, and the jelly fish slivers on top of then leaving half-inch on their outside with nothing on them.
3. Mix peanut butter with one tablespoon of hot water, then add vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and stir well. Next, add the hot oil and pour this mixture over the jellyfish before serving them.
Jellyfish and Greens
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
1 scallion, green part only, slivered
1 cup mustard greens, cut into two-inch slivers
3 duck or six chicken gizzards, thick part removed, then slivered
8 ounce packet jellyfish soaked in cold water eight hours, blanched in boiling water for half minute, then rinsed in ice water and slivered.
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon shaoxing rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon cold water
1. Heat oil in wok or fry pan, then add garlic and scallion pieces and stir fry half minute before adding mustard greens and duck gizzards and stir-fry for three minutes.
2. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar and simmer for two more minutes, then add jellyfish and stir-fry one minute.
3. Add sesame oil and the cornstarch mixture, and stir until sauce thickens, about half minute. Then plate and serve.
Chicken and Jellyfish
1 chicken breast, simmered for ten minutes, then shredded finely by hand
1 cucumber, peeled, sliced, then slivered into matchstick pieces
8 ounces jellyfish, soaked in cold water for eight hours, then blanched in boiling water thirty seconds, then rinsed in ice water, and then slivered
3 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon shaoxing rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon hot oil
1. Spread chicken around the exterior of a flat dinner-size plate.
2. Spread cucumber pieces inside these pieces.
3. Mix garlic, soy sauce, salt, sugar, rice vinegar, and the sesame and hot oils. Toss with the jellyfish, and put in the center of the plate, tossing in a small amount of chicken and cucumber at six and twelve o’clock. When all are at the table, toss some at three and nine o’clock, then let everyone serve themselves.
Smoked Fish with Jellyfish
1/2 cup dried jellyfish, blanched for half minute, immediately put into ice water, and slivered when cold
1/2 pound boneless and skinless smoked eel, shredded
1 carrot, rated
1 stalk celery, cut into small slivers
1 pickling cucumber, peeled and cut into small slivers
2 scallions, slivered
1/4 cup coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
5 Tablespoons white rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Put the jellyfish, eel, carrot, celery, and cucumber in a serving bowl and toss well, then refrigerate for one hour.
2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator, and stir in the scallions, coriander, sugar, and the ginger.
3. In a small jar, put in the vinegar and the oyseter sauce, and shake well, then pour over the jellyfish mixture, toss lightly, and serve.
Jellyfish with Chili Sauce
1/2 pound jellyfish, blanched for half minute, then immediately put into ice water, and when cold, slivered
3 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 Tablespoon chili sauce; less if not wanted very spicy
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 green part of one scallion, slivered
1. Mix jellyfish with the soy sauce, cover, and refrigerate if not using in the next hour or two.
2. Mix sesame oil, chili sauce, rice vinegar, and the sugar, and stir until dissolved, and toss with the jellyfish and soy sauce. Put into a pre-chilled serving bowl, scatter scallion pieces on top, and serve.

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