Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jellyfish Salad

Jellyfish salad, a refreshingly light dish tossed with fresh cucumber, carrots, daikon radish, red chilies, and a dressing of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic, was a staple in my childhood in Taiwan. Oddly enough, I never knew I was actually eating "jellyfish" (yup, not a euphemism for some mysterious marine plant, a la seaweed, but the real deal) until I was an adult and living in LA. As kids, my sister and I were both stung by these suckers while traipsing along the shores of Jinshan beach in northeastern Taiwan and the experience was highly unpleasant, to say the least (like sandpaper rubbing into your skin - ugh!). Anyhoo, this made me believe that jellyfish had to be inedible due to the plethora of stinging cells harbored in their tentacles. I always assumed that the English name of "jellyfish" for this salad was simply another bad translation. NOT!

According to the website, jellyfish for human consumption is processed with salt and alum to neutralize the venom. It may be an acquired taste (pleasantly chewy, rubber bandy), but jellyfish is kind of like tofu - essentially blandish stuff that soaks up the flavors of the ingredients you add to it. The most tedious part of the prep is the repeated soaking and rinsing to remove the salt. Otherwise, it's a cinch to make and quite delicious. 

1 14-oz. package of salted, shredded jellyfish
1 medium or 2 small carrots (1 cup), shredded
1 English/hothouse cucumber, julienned 
2 red jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely sliced
1 small daikon, shredded, about 1 cup (optional)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seed

1. Place jellyfish in medium bowl and soak in tap water for 20 minutes; rinse and repeat four more times, every 20 minutes. This will get rid of the salt. 

2. Fill a medium pan with water and bring to a boil. Parboil jellyfish in the hot water for 3-5 seconds (not more) and remove immediately. Place jellyfish in bowl again and fill with cool water. Soak an additional 30 minutes; drain & set aside. 

3. Toss remaining ingredients with the jellyfish; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. 

This one is not expensive (less than $3 bucks). I've used the more expensive ($10+) stuff from Japan but, honestly, it doesn't taste better than the cheaper variety.

Rinse, rinse and rinse.

After all that soaking and rinsing, parboil the jellyfish for just a couple seconds in very hot water. 

Put the parboiled jellyfish back into a bowl and soak with cool water for another 30 minutes.

Clockwise, left to right: red jalapenos, garlic, carrots, hothouse cucumber, cilantro.

Mix veggies with jellyfish in a bowl.

Seasonings: Toasted sesame seeds, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil.

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