Monday, January 21, 2013

Unusual Creatures for Food?

We were on holidays in Saigon, Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) for one week four years ago.  I tagged along  with my friend's family. Our group had two old ladies, a couple with their 3 year old son, and I. I guess it was a group not meant for long and difficult rides. It was a pre-arranged travel, so no hassles for transports and hotels. We arrived at around 2am, so no traffic yet on the roads from the airport. Being there for the first time, all my senses are always open, partly for being naturally curious and partly to assimilate a lot of information. 

The younger generation want to explore the historical places, the tunnels, etc, but we were only able to avail of the one day Mekong River trip, with a visit to the islands at the middle. Our days were mostly spent eating and going to the market, shopping left and right. But I don't like shopping, so i just join and take photos. These are some of the most unusual things I've seen in the wholesale market. I saw them here for the first time. 

These are the dried sea cucumbers called trepang, delicacy for the Chinese, wherever they are in the world. But other Asian countries also use this for food recipes, as influenced by the Chinese. I am so fascinated on how they can be eaten, as i can see fungus already growing on the dried organisms! I guess i captured in photos the three species. Maybe i have eaten it already in Chinese restaurants, but it is very different when you see them in its condition as in the photos. 

 species 1

 species 2

species 3

They are called sea cucumbers because they look like our table cucumbers. They are also called more technically as Holothurians being in the Class Holothuroidea. I am only very familiar with them as living marine animals we see in our rocky shores. Kids play with them because they spurt water on you when touched. However, even as a child I am scared to touch them, being scary, slimy, and gelatinously soft! They even look like short snakes or big slugs! Yaicks! I am sorry for the quality of the photo below, as it is the only one i got from our seashore.

live sea cucumber


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45 comments:

  1. A delicacy Andrea, that's for sure! I bet it tastes better than it looks!

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    1. Yes Mark, as i told our Chinese-American blogger friend, Wendy, it is 'better eaten than seen'. I'm sure I've eaten it as i frequent Chinese restaurants here, but i don't know the texture when in the food.

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    1. Yes Loraine, after seeing the condition of the dried organism, i might be selective in the future!

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  3. I had sea cucumbers when I was in China. I must admit that it was NOT my favorite food. I didn't think to get any pictures of the creatures.

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    1. Hi George, I've been to Chinese restaurants here and abroad many times, and maybe i've eaten it, but because that was the first time i saw them in the dried form before processing in the recipe, i might take second thoughts next time. And i am very familiar with how they look when alive in the natural habitat! Have you seen the creatures in China?

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  4. holy moly do they look awful. I do eat these frequently. Not becuase I love them, but my parents do. They are expensive, and I think the quality can mean a big difference in price. To me, it's all about texture and not about the taste. They're sort of calimari-ish, but softer. More jellyish. Like a bland jello jiggler if you know what I mean!! :) The rehydration process is pretty involved and there are tricks to plumping them up just perfectly to get the most for your money. We have them often chopped up in dumplings, in soups, in stir fries etc. Along the inside is a little intestine kind of thing. My husband and I call them little worms. He loves them. And he's a white guy, mind you.

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    1. hahaha Wendy, i guess they are included in the things called 'better eaten than seen'! I am sure I have eaten them in Chinese restaurants, which i frequent here and also when in other countries. If they are normal components of Chinese chapsuey, then so be it. But i guess it really matters if we will see how they really look like. By the way Wendy, have you seen them alive, or in natural habitat as i did?

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  5. Never had Sea Cucumbers --and probably never will... IF George says that he didn't like them when he was in China ---WELL, I know that "I" wouldn't like them.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Betsy, you wouldn't know you have tasted it, if it is a normal component in the Chinese recipe dish! That's why i told Wendy above, maybe it is included in the things called 'better eaten than seen', haha!

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  6. I don't know if I have eaten them (were in mainland China for a week, to visit our son who was teaching there at the time). I was thinking that we eat cheeses with fungi on them (like Brie, Gruyere, etc., so may be this is a similar thing?

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    1. Yes Jeannette, that is a good analogy, it just depends on our culture, and what we have been accustomed to. Many foreigners cannot try eating our "balut", a delicacy here in the country. But i am sorry I still cannot eat that too!

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  7. I remember eating them before I became a vegetarian when I lived in China.

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    1. Oh so you lived there! I would love to live there too!

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  8. Its considered a prized delicacy. The better variety can cost you an arm and a leg. I myself am not particularly fond of them, not so much because of the taste but more with its close resemblance to worms which I'm quite squeamish about. The process of cleaning it is tedious. They are scrubbed clean, rinsed and soaked in copious of clean water. This process is repeated over many days before it can be cooked. Can't imagine going through all the trouble for a dish. An ingredient in the famed dish 'Buddha Jump Over the Wall'.

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    1. Stiletto, I guess maybe you are not Chinese. I actually read the process of cleaning and soaking for a long time before cooking, because i was so intrigued at the condition and looks of those trepang. I have actually eaten that because we frequent Chinese restaurants. It is actually being cultured already here in mariculture, i think we have some species here in the country that we export. I will remember that 'Buddha Jump Over the Wall'. thank you.

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  9. I find these unusual foods fascinating but I would not try them...not adventurous with my food.

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    1. I can fully relate with you Donna, my mouth is also not as adventurous as my feet!

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  10. Interesting post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  11. I remember being shown sea cucumbers as a child on trips to the beaches of South Carolina... wonderful images.

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  12. Sometimes it is better not to know what the raw ingredients look like!

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    1. Yes that is right, but I am not really very adventurous in food, so i normally ask before eating, haha!

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  13. Delicious is in the mouth of the eater. Doesn't look to appetizing to me, but when I think of what goes into salami and other sausages, I have to withhold judgement.

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    1. Oh yes Jason, it is like beauty "taste is in the tongue of the beholder", haha. I have heard too of those in very cold areas where maggots are really eaten fresh!

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    2. Hello Jason, i cannot see your blogsite. Maybe i am blocked in your sites, so sorry for not commenting or reading your posts.

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  14. Andrea, what amazing sea cucumbers! Incidentally you might like this about the tortoise/testudinal beetle ...

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  15. They are neat, but I do not think I could eat these sea cucumbers. Great info and post. Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Sometimes, it's best not to know what it was until you've already eaten!

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    1. Bettyl, sometimes it is better that way, and sometime not, haha!

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  17. Interesting post. That's not one I'm familiar with.

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  18. i'm afraid we eat a lot of stuff in chinese restaurant that we don't really know of, or would not choose to eat if we knew.

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    1. Hahaha, yes that's true, more if you personally see the kitchen. I stayed in one of the more famous universities in China for one month (long ago), we were privileged because we were trainees of biotechnology, our refrigerator is always full with drinks (school staff don't drink those canned juices because they're very expensive for them), we ate special food prepared solely for us but we later brought our own spoon and fork, kasi malansa hindi sila nagsasabon!

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  19. Amazing creatures. I can't think of eating them though.

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  20. It's always interesting to see and learn about food habits from around the world. Loved your post.

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    1. Yes it is really interesting, however i wonder why my system cannot take anything inside!

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  21. I would definitely prefer to eat it dried than fresh - if I really had to.

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  22. Strange looking food! but I suppose its just protein!

    Not sure I would agree about the beach being "almost as good as the Gold Coast"!!

    Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. I haven't been to any of them, the farthest i've reached from Sydney is Coffs Harbour!

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  23. Seen these before in Chinese restaurants. While my parents and brother have no qualms eating them, I personally find them very unappetizing haha.

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    1. Hi Aaron, even if you have Chinese descent, maybe you are very modern now so not much like the older generation. I have eaten it in chapsuey mixtures, but i don't like the texture, the more i wont like when i learned how it looked like as dried!

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  24. Jeśli bym to wcześniej zobaczyła żywe, to żadnej potrawy z ogórkiem morskim bym nie zjadła. Dziękuję, że mnie odwiedziłeś. Było to bardzo miłe. Pozdrawiam.
    If I saw it live before, it's no sea cucumber dishes I would not eat. Thank you that I visited. It was very nice. Yours.

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  25. What interesting looking creatures Andrea and the comments are so interesting too. I am the most picky eater ever and I don't know why. I taught in a school with many different cultures especially Asian and we used to have lunches where everyone would bring in something from their culture and I am afraid that I didn't try as many things as I should have given that they were authentic. I hope you have a great week...Michelle

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    1. Oh Michelle, glad to know you have been acquainted with many Asian cultures. I maybe am just like you, because even if my countrymen eat lots of food like these and "balut", i really cannot be like them. I also wonder why, as I wrote above, my mouth is not as adventurous as my feet, haha! Sometimes in a group here, i am the only one who cannot eat something! And i don't even eat ruminants from birth! Happy Weekend and take care, my postitive thoughts always go with you!

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  26. Ew, those sea cucumbers are ugly. I too have eaten them in Chinese restaurants, in Singapore although they looked a lot more appetizing then. Ha ha ha. Love the photos in your previous post, you have such a great view.

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