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Eating Sea Cucumber: Cool & Fun Facts

Sea cucumbers are animals that live on the ocean floor and is a popular Japanese food.  The Japanese and Chinese people tend to like them because of their unique texture, but most westerners have a hard time eating this type of sea creatures.   The same goes for the Sea Urchin, they are both considered the strangest food to eat for many.

There are various sub-species of sea cucumbers. Some of them are harvested for food while others for medicinal purposes.  Also sea cucumbers have many health benefits, click here to read more.

Basket of Sea Cucumbers by Augapfel
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Augapfel

Sea Cucmbers Fun Facts

  • Their leathery skin is made up of bumps and spines.
  • The color of a sea cucumber will depend on which species it belongs to.
  • Their main source of food is organic decaying matter.
  • The largest cucumber is known as the Tiger’s Tail sea cucumber.
  • It can grow up to 7 feet long and has small tentacles around its mouth that bring in food.
  • Another interesting fact about sea cucumbers is that they have no brain but they can live for 5 to 10 years.
  • Sea cucumbers have the ability to squeeze themselves through tiny spaces.
  • They live together in huge numbers and can float to wherever they want.
  • Some defend themselves by excreting a chemical known as holothurin. This chemical is not harmful to humans but it’s toxic to other sea-life creatures within the area. One particular predator of the sea cucumber is the haddock fish. 

Fried sea cucumber by Kent Wang
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Kent Wang - Fried Sea Cucumbers

How is Sea Cucumber Prepared in Japanese Cooking

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When sea cucumbers are caught as food, their insides are first cleaned out. They are then washed, boiled in water and smoke-dried. Because they have been dried, they have to be soaked in cold water for at least half a day. They are then left to simmer for 1 to 2 hours, after which they will drain and cool. Depending on your preference, you can slice the sea cucumbers into small pieces and put them in soup, stews or stir-fries. For those who prefer to eat them whole, they can fill them with pork stuffing. 

Serving Sea Cucumber

In Japan, the insides of sea cucumbers are treated as separate food items called konowata. They are served on gunkan, which is a type of sushi. Others prefer to pickle it. The Naamako Chaburi is a sea cucumber that has been marinated in tea and then served with vinegar on it.

 

Sea cucumber by Kent Wang
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Kent Wang

Most cultures in East and Southeast Asia consider the cucumbers as a delicacy. Quite a number of dishes can be prepared with sea cucumbers. Some of the most common ingredients that go with sea cucumber dishes include dried scallop, shitake mushroom and Chinese cabbage. 

A video below demonstrates how to clean and prepare the cucumbers.

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