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sea cucumbers

tatamagouche Feb 5, 2011 03:52 PM

I know you see them in various Chinese cuisines, but do other Asian countries also cook with them? What about beyond the Asian continent?

Just curious—I don't think I've ever had them before.

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  1. Tripeler RE: tatamagouche Feb 5, 2011 04:02 PM

    Yes, they are popular in Northern Japan, but largely unknown in other places in Japan.

    1. j
      joonjoon RE: tatamagouche Feb 6, 2011 12:13 AM

      Koreans love sea cucumber sashimi. It's a VERY acquired taste IMHO, and requires the accompaniment of Soju.

      I also love the chinese braised preparations.

      2 Replies
      1. re: joonjoon
        tatamagouche RE: joonjoon Feb 6, 2011 05:19 AM

        Ah, well, requiring the accompaniment of soju is only a plus in my book.

        I saw it on a mostly Vietnamese menu in a hot pot with mushrooms and tofu, so I was wondering if they're used in Vietnam too—but a few Chinese dishes are sprinkled throughout so I'm guessing it's that then.

        1. re: joonjoon
          Passadumkeg RE: joonjoon Feb 6, 2011 02:06 PM

          JJ, =1! So ju-ish!

        2. Tripeler RE: tatamagouche Feb 6, 2011 05:36 AM

          In Japan, it is served as sunomono -- marinated in vinegar as a salad-like appetizer. It is called "namako" and people first cut the ends off, split it down the middle and gut it before marinating.
          Actually, I like it best in Chinese food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tripeler
            K K RE: Tripeler Feb 6, 2011 08:48 AM

            I never had Hoya, but would you say the texture is similar to sea cucumber?

            I like the Cantonese Chinese prep too, usually braised and served with greens and webbed goose feet.

          2. Caroline1 RE: tatamagouche Feb 6, 2011 09:32 AM

            Several decades ago, when my second husband worked at Scripps Institute of Oceanography as a scuba diver on a deep sea wave research project, he used to "shop for dinner" on his way back in from the buoys. He regularly brought home such things as sea cucumber, sea snails, barnacles, keyhole limpets, turban snails, urchins, abalone, octopus and all sorts of other critters that most folks don't even know about, let alone eat. But it's been a while since the last time I cooked fresh sea cucumber. But in a word, YES! They are edible. Not quite as much work to clean as an abalone, but they do have to be cleaned and, as I recall, I skinned mine. They require braising or they're tough. I only tried to pound one once the way I pounded abalone to tenderize it, and never tried that trick again! They don't have a lot of flavor on their own, but lend themselves nicely to very subtle Japanese type soups, and they're also an interesting addition to seafood stews. I do recall using barnacles, sea cucumber, keyhole limpets and any sort of firm white fish in a quasi cioppino. I say quasi because I've never seen sea cucumbers in a San Francisco fish stew, let alone a barnacle. But you can find sea cucumbers in SF Chinatown restaurants. They just want an arm and a leg for them, but if you have a diver in the family, like abalone and a lot of other good stuff, they're free...!!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Caroline1
              UTgal RE: Caroline1 Feb 9, 2012 11:07 AM

              Thanks for sharing that neat story!

              I fondly remember watching the sea cucumber divers up in the San Juan islands. I had some sea cucumber, raw, fresh out of the water. I thought it was gross, but I was 14. ;-) I happened to be attending a Japanese/American marine biology summer camp at the time, and as I recall my Japanese friends really liked it.

            2. e
              emilief RE: tatamagouche Feb 6, 2011 10:27 AM

              We were served a dish (I think soup) containing sea cucumber in Singapore.I thought it was vile stuff.

              1. ipsedixit RE: tatamagouche Feb 6, 2011 10:32 AM

                Well, I do this with sea cucumbers (amongst many other things) ...


                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit
                  Caroline1 RE: ipsedixit Feb 6, 2011 01:49 PM

                  Okay. No doubt about it. You've got the creativity award in your pocket for this month. Maybe even this year! If I thought there was a chance of me EVER making a meat loaf that doesn't give anyone who tastes it terminal indigestion, I'd give it a try! hmmm...

                2. g
                  gloriousfood RE: tatamagouche Feb 6, 2011 11:35 AM

                  I love them, but they are an acquired taste, esp. for non-Asians (just ask my husband!).

                  38 Replies
                  1. re: gloriousfood
                    scoopG RE: gloriousfood Feb 6, 2011 01:59 PM

                    Perhaps one way around it is instead of focusing in on the taste of sea cucumber, think like the Chinese do: texture! It is one of the foods in China appreciated for its texture, not taste. High end sea cucumber sells for over US$ 2000 a pound in China!

                    1. re: scoopG
                      Chemicalkinetics RE: scoopG Feb 6, 2011 08:00 PM

                      Agree. I don't think many Chinese go for the taste of them.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                        ipsedixit RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 7, 2011 08:20 AM

                        Sea cucumbers are essentially tasteless.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          Tripeler RE: ipsedixit Feb 12, 2014 08:48 PM

                          I think it is because of the tacky clothing they choose to wear.

                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          wattacetti RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 7, 2011 08:29 AM

                          Taste? I always thought sea cucumber was all about the texture (dried/reconstituted or fresh). Sea cucumber roe on the other hand does have taste (mostly briny) with the only drawback being that it's freakingly expensive.

                          1. re: wattacetti
                            Chemicalkinetics RE: wattacetti Feb 7, 2011 09:33 AM

                            Sorry about not being more clear. I was agreeing with scoopG that in fact sea cucumber is about texture and not about taste.

                        3. re: scoopG
                          gloriousfood RE: scoopG Feb 7, 2011 06:04 PM

                          Then I will say it's an acquired texture, ha ha.

                          1. re: gloriousfood
                            scoopG RE: gloriousfood Feb 7, 2011 07:33 PM

                            Not really. Certainly not to any Chinese diner (or anyone else) who understands the importance of texture in eating.

                            1. re: scoopG
                              gloriousfood RE: scoopG Feb 9, 2011 06:17 PM

                              I will politely disagree based on my experience eating this dish with non-Asians.

                              1. re: gloriousfood
                                small h RE: gloriousfood Feb 12, 2011 02:55 PM

                                Non-Asian here, loved sea cucumber the first time I tried it, order it whenever I see it on a menu (and it doesn't cost the earth).

                                1. re: small h
                                  ipsedixit RE: small h Feb 12, 2011 05:43 PM

                                  And it's sustainable seafood.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    small h RE: ipsedixit Feb 12, 2011 06:45 PM

                                    Is it? That's good to know, 'cause I've seen it referred to as endangered. Do you give any credence to these reports?



                                    1. re: small h
                                      ipsedixit RE: small h Feb 12, 2011 06:57 PM

                                      I'm sure *some* species of wild sea cucumbers (there are literally hundreds of different species) may be endangered, but I was referring to farmed sea cucumbers.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        small h RE: ipsedixit Feb 12, 2011 07:07 PM

                                        I see. I will continue to partake, then, since it's very likely farmed sea cucumber is what's available to me, anyway.

                                      2. re: small h
                                        scoopG RE: small h Feb 13, 2011 02:58 PM

                                        small h, That first photo looks like sea worms to me, not sea cucumbers.

                                        1. re: scoopG
                                          scoopG RE: scoopG Feb 13, 2011 03:03 PM

                                          Here are some dried sea cucumbers on sale in Qingdao.

                                          1. re: scoopG
                                            Chemicalkinetics RE: scoopG Feb 13, 2011 03:05 PM

                                            I just saw some yesterday in Chinatown. I don't know if I have ever tried the dried ones. They are expensive.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                              huiray RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 8, 2012 12:22 PM

                                              Well, I had a "special dish" over the CNY period at a restaurant in my area, that had sea cucumbers as a main ingredient, and it didn't cost an arm and a leg. Quite a modest price, in fact, but no doubt not the best quality dried stuff was used. I ended up fishing out all the sea cucumber pieces I could find (a decent amount) to munch on (crunch, crunch!) and drank most of the nice stock, leaving behind most of the chicken. (The dish was "old chicken braised with sea cucumbers" 老鸡烩海参 or traditional characters 老鷄燴海參)

                                              1. re: huiray
                                                Chemicalkinetics RE: huiray Feb 8, 2012 10:46 PM

                                                I may have a bad memory now, but I remotely remember the dried sea cucumbers cost more than the fresh ones. Is that normal?

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                  ipsedixit RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 9, 2012 06:23 AM

                                                  I may have a bad memory now, but I remotely remember the dried sea cucumbers cost more than the fresh ones. Is that normal?


                                          2. re: scoopG
                                            small h RE: scoopG Feb 13, 2011 04:15 PM

                                            I'm no expert on these things - just going by the text on the site. They, uh, look like something else to me, but I'm not going there.

                                            1. re: scoopG
                                              Caroline1 RE: scoopG Feb 13, 2011 10:26 PM

                                              Sea worms? I think you're kidding, right? They look like skinned sea cucumbers to me. Hey, if I can find them already skinned, that's for me!

                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                scoopG RE: Caroline1 Feb 14, 2011 05:28 AM

                                                No, those are Sea Worms. Here's a video of them in action:


                                                Photo of Sea Cucumber below...

                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                  Caroline1 RE: scoopG Feb 14, 2011 07:06 AM

                                                  Not all sea cucumbers look alike. The ones we used to eat freshly harvested from the coast off San Diego looked very much like the ones I asked if you were kidding about, once they were skinned. That species didn't have the spikiness of those in the picture you show, so who knows? You may be right.. Anyway, I can't remember ever eating anything from the sea I didn't like... Well, unless it was badly prepared. Seafood is good food...!

                                        2. re: small h
                                          pikawicca RE: small h Feb 12, 2014 07:32 PM

                                          c oliver and I saw many varieties of sea cucumber for sale in NYC Chinatown yesterday, some for as much as $80/lb!

                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                            Veggo RE: pikawicca Feb 12, 2014 07:37 PM

                                            Sad, they are so defenseless in their natural habitat, because NOTHING in the ocean wants to eat them. Just Asians.

                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                              c oliver RE: pikawicca Feb 13, 2014 06:53 AM

                                              Dried ones. And SO many varieties.

                                              We had them at Paco Meralgo in Barcelona and they were wonderful. As small h said above, I'd order them if I saw them on a menu. Can't understand anyone thinking otherwise.

                                              1. re: pikawicca
                                                small h RE: pikawicca Feb 13, 2014 07:20 AM

                                                I just checked New Kam Man's website: dried sea cucumber there is $128.50/lb. I wonder how refined one's tastebuds need to be to distinguish between the various grades. I'd like to buy, say, a few dried scallops in a range of prices and compare them.

                                                1. re: small h
                                                  c oliver RE: small h Feb 13, 2014 07:22 AM

                                                  The NYC ones went up to $100/# IIRC. There were there with the dried mushrooms and we had to look at the label so know what they were :)

                                                  1. re: small h
                                                    ipsedixit RE: small h Feb 13, 2014 08:09 AM

                                                    There are significant differences between quality and mediocre dehydrated sea cucumbers. Same with conpoy.

                                                    It's worth spending the extra money. Just like it is with good quality EVOO that you intend to use as a "finishing oil".

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                      small h RE: ipsedixit Feb 13, 2014 09:06 AM

                                                      Can you describe how that difference manifests itself? I just had pea shoots with shredded dried scallop at Legend (the UWS one), so I've got conpoy on the brain.

                                                      1. re: small h
                                                        ipsedixit RE: small h Feb 13, 2014 09:45 AM

                                                        Here's a previous discussion that K K and I had about conpoy, and its qualities (taste, texture, etc.), that you might find interesting and helpful.


                                                        Now, I've got conpoy on my brain. Damn you!

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                          small h RE: ipsedixit Feb 13, 2014 09:59 AM

                                                          Thanks for the link - that answered my question very well. And I assumed that conpoy was only sold in 1 lb increments, so good to know that it's not. (Ever try to buy less than a pound of say, fresh lichees, in Chinatown? You can't. Or I can't, anyway.)

                                                          1. re: small h
                                                            ipsedixit RE: small h Feb 13, 2014 10:01 AM

                                                            Damn you. Now I have lychee on the brain. Fresh ones, no less.


                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                              small h RE: ipsedixit Feb 13, 2014 10:15 AM

                                                              Sorry. I didn't realize how contagious my appetite was. I'm a regular Thai Food Mary (ducks, flees).

                                        3. re: scoopG
                                          sparkplug RE: scoopG Feb 11, 2011 05:42 AM

                                          I spent 2 weeks in China last year and had my first experiences with sea cucumber. While in Wenzhou I had a preparation of raw sea cucumber, diced into small bits, served chilled in a soupy mixture that had rice wine, wasabi and ginger among other things. It was delightful!! I absolutely loved the chewy texture of the bits of sea cucumber. I was the only non-Chinese person at the meal, and none of them spoke the best English, so I wasn't able to get a really good handle on all of the ingredients and technique. If I had, I'd be making it at home-- it was that good!

                                          However, while in in Haining, I was served whole sea cucumber which was braised and I coulndn't stomach the texture. I ate a few bites to be polite, but it was all I could do to swallow. Funny how I can name it as both one of the best things I ate while in China and one of the worst!

                                          1. re: sparkplug
                                            Chemicalkinetics RE: sparkplug Feb 11, 2011 05:50 AM

                                            I actually like it in bigger piece maybe not whole. Thanks for the picture and the report.

                                          2. re: scoopG
                                            Worldwide Diner RE: scoopG Feb 12, 2014 08:27 PM

                                            it's a symbol of wealth. I grew up eating that at every banquet and I rarely see the dish finished.

                                        4. f
                                          Fred Rickson RE: tatamagouche Feb 12, 2011 04:53 AM

                                          I like to soak them , chop them fine, and add to noodle soups. You get a little burst of the ocean every now and then.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Fred Rickson
                                            ipsedixit RE: Fred Rickson Feb 12, 2011 09:39 AM

                                            I do that with sea squirts.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                              tatamagouche RE: ipsedixit Feb 12, 2011 01:09 PM

                                              I had sea squirts in Chile, the thrill of which was mainly the chance to say I ate sea squirts—not much flavor there either, at least just boiled and chilled...They're not available in the States though, are they?

                                              1. re: tatamagouche
                                                ipsedixit RE: tatamagouche Feb 12, 2011 02:01 PM

                                                Yes, they are.

                                                I can get them at my Chinese and Korean markets.

                                          2. Veggo RE: tatamagouche Feb 13, 2011 05:02 PM

                                            I don't understand the appeal- they are like Vulcanized tofu.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Veggo
                                              ipsedixit RE: Veggo Feb 13, 2011 05:33 PM

                                              That is the appeal.

                                            2. TheHuntress RE: tatamagouche Feb 13, 2011 05:49 PM

                                              There was a nice little sea cucmber recipe showing on a cooking programme we have over here called 'The Cook and The Chef'. I have to say the final result looked delicious. Here's the link:


                                              1. TheHuntress RE: tatamagouche Feb 13, 2011 05:51 PM

                                                Oh and just to add this particular show did a section on sea cucumbers being farmed in Australia. The guy who's doing the farming is up in Darwin (The far north of Australia) and mainly exports to the Asian market.

                                                1. a
                                                  AdamD RE: tatamagouche Feb 14, 2011 06:02 AM

                                                  I was served a very large whole one in China at a very fancy dinner. Giant sea slugs. No thanks. I could see eating a few bites in a soup or stew, but eating that entire slug was probably the least pleasant dining experience I have ever had.

                                                  1. alkapal RE: tatamagouche Feb 6, 2012 05:30 AM

                                                    i'm curious about
                                                    Hoi Sum (sea cucumber) braised with pork, dried flower mushrooms and dried 'wong kai lon' (a type of dried cuttlefish).

                                                    can you show me images of any of the sea cucumber before it goes into such a dish?
                                                    how about the dried cuttlefish?
                                                    would a prepared sea cucumber section ever resemble a pale creamy large flat mushroom with a firmer "bite"?
                                                    what about baby sea cucumber: how is it prepared?

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: alkapal
                                                      ipsedixit RE: alkapal Feb 6, 2012 06:02 AM

                                                      Below are images of sea cucumbers before they are re-hydrated and cooked.

                                                      The one on the far right is one that has been hydrated and cooked. And, no, it would not have a firmer "bite" than a mushroom.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                        alkapal RE: ipsedixit Feb 6, 2012 06:26 AM

                                                        thanks. i had already googled images. what i'm seeking is one cleaned and unadorned with sauce, prepped to go into a dish. of course i have learned there are many different varieties, too.

                                                        is the flesh always dark, or is it ever creamy?

                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                          ipsedixit RE: alkapal Feb 6, 2012 06:31 AM

                                                          Grey-ish, translucent would be how I would describe it post-prep and pre-sauced.

                                                          1. re: alkapal
                                                            Chemicalkinetics RE: alkapal Feb 6, 2012 06:49 AM

                                                            There are fresh sea cucumbers and dried sea cucumbers. Good luck.

                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                              alkapal RE: alkapal Feb 7, 2012 10:57 PM

                                                              here is my photo of a recent dish we got at hong long pearl restaurant in falls church, virginia., with baby sea cucumber (now identified) on the spoonula in the photo. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8213...

                                                              it is all about the rubbery texture, as there was not really much flavor other than the sauce. mr. alka liked it, and i found it just fine -- esp, if i didn't think of how it looks in the wild. ;-).

                                                        2. Monica RE: tatamagouche Feb 9, 2012 11:21 AM

                                                          I love sea cucumber sashimi...yummmy...love the taste and the texture. too bad it's hard to get fresh ones in US.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Monica
                                                            joonjoon RE: Monica Sep 13, 2013 07:10 AM

                                                            If you have an H Mart near you you can get fresh live ones that are flown in from Korea!

                                                            1. re: joonjoon
                                                              Monica RE: joonjoon Sep 13, 2013 07:15 AM

                                                              I should check out H mart in Ridgefield, NJ...The closest one from is the one in Englewood but they don't have sea cucumber. Thanks for the tip. I really want it now.
                                                              What other sea delicacies should I try out?

                                                              1. re: Monica
                                                                joonjoon RE: Monica Sep 13, 2013 09:32 AM

                                                                The one in Ridgefield definitely has it.

                                                                Korean street sashimi 1-2 is sea cucumber and sea pineapple (멍게) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_pine...).

                                                                Other than that, they'll have live abalone and penis fish (개불) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urechis_...). They some times have this in stock.

                                                                Sea Urchin is always delicious, of course.

                                                                That's all I can think of for now...

                                                          2. m
                                                            morrismixmaster RE: tatamagouche Sep 12, 2013 06:52 PM

                                                            A legendary Japanese dish is the fermented entrails of sea cucumber ...KONOWATA

                                                            1. m
                                                              morrismixmaster RE: tatamagouche Sep 12, 2013 06:53 PM


                                                              1. Kurtis RE: tatamagouche Feb 14, 2014 07:44 AM

                                                                During childhood growing up in Seoul, my dad used to order 海參肘子 (braised pork and sea cucumber? correct me if I am wrong) every so often when we eat out. I never touched it then, but is this something I could find in say NYC, Philly, or DC? If so I would love to try it, and perhaps surprise my dad with it.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Kurtis
                                                                  ipsedixit RE: Kurtis Feb 14, 2014 08:04 AM

                                                                  Lao Dong Bei in Flushing has this dish.

                                                                  Most Chinese restaurants with a seafood menu will offer this prep for sea cucumbers and more likely it will be called something like "海參扒肘子".

                                                                  Good luck and hope that helps.

                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                    Kurtis RE: ipsedixit Feb 14, 2014 08:44 AM

                                                                    That's great! Thanks.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                      c oliver RE: ipsedixit Feb 14, 2014 11:50 AM

                                                                      I don't know so I'll ask: is this made with dried cucumbers?

                                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                                        ipsedixit RE: c oliver Feb 14, 2014 12:31 PM

                                                                        Yes. At least it should be.

                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                        c oliver RE: ipsedixit Feb 14, 2014 12:43 PM


                                                                        I'm sorry we missed this when we were in Flushing the other day. Next time.

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