The other day I was listening to an interview on National Public Radio between an Englishwoman and her subject, a jellyfish broker. Candidly, if jellyfish do not seem exotic and glamourous to you, I would suggest you visit Newport, Oregon's aquarium.
I admit they are certainly not a big commodity in this country, but jellyfish may soon show up on your 'green' foods menu if they haven't already.
Japan is in the forefront of countries that have begun to experience the effects of global warming. The foods jellyfish eat proliferate in warm waters; hence, as the water warms up the increasing availability of food is producing jellyfish as large as washing machines.
The waters off their coast have become so over-populated by jellyfish, this phenomenon is affecting Japan's fishing industry. Traditional fishing has been terribly complicated because so many fishing nets come up full of jellyfish. To compound the problem, when the fishermen bring the nets out of the water, the jellyfish crush the rest of the catch.
Why does all this matter to you and me? The Japanese are big fisheaters and if fish brokers manage to encourage Japanese chefs to incorporate jellyfish into their menus? Not only will they be helping the ocean maintain its natural balance of fish, they will also help the fishermen, feed more people and cut down on world hunger.
Of course, the Chinese have been serving jellyfish for centuries, so the jellyfish brokers' leap of faith is not without precedent. There are some commonalities between the two cuisines, although not as many as many Americans think.
But in that spirit, here is a Chinese recipe for preparing a popular version of a jellyfish dish.
1/2 lb prepared shredded jellyfish (amber color is the best)
3 tsp light soy sauce
3.5 tbsp sesame oil
2.5 tsp white rice seasoned gourmet vinegar
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted lightly
Rinse and drain jellyfish well in cold water while the water runs. Put the jellyfish in a stainless steel bowl and cover with boiling water. Let the jellyfish sit in the hot water for about 15 minutes or until it is tender. Drain and continue to soak in cold water many times (6 or 7) until the water seems relatively clear. Drain thoroughly and dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture and then set the jellyfish aside.
Mix the soy sauce, oil, vinegar and sugar until blended well. Add the jellyfish to the soy mixture and combine well. Cover and refrigerate and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. If you can turn the jellyfish once while in this marinade it will more evenly cover the jellyfish.
Toast the sesame seeds by stir frying lightly on medium heat without oil. Don't burn them, or the delicate flavor will be lost rather. Before serving, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top of the jellyfish for garnish. This is eaten as either an appetizer or entree and will serve two or four respectively.
"It looks like a thick piece of aged skin and smells like very old cheese." That was the appetizing description by the NPR reporter of her impression of fresh, uncooked jellyfish. Perhaps this is why it is normally preserved and the rinsing and washing help to remove some of the salt.
I'm told many people consider jellyfish delicious once cooked, and claim it has no flavor of its own but is appreciated for a pleasing gelatinous texture. It looks like little 'pasta-like' worms in pictures, but I couldn't tell you what the actual prepared dish looks like.
Although I am obviously intrigued, and encourage adventurous types, I am going to stick with tuna rolls. If I need to spice up my life, it will be with a sour plum paste or wasabi on the side.