Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Exotic food: Jellyfish

It came from the deep and became a 'happy meal'

Robert Bok's tartlets of jellyfish squares and smoked salmon. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Robert Bok's tartlets of jellyfish squares and smoked salmon. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Dead jellyfish are not welcome on the beaches of New Zealand, but they do find their way to the dinner table of many Chinese and other Asians.

Malaysian immigrant Mavis Gan calls jellyfish her "happy meal".

"It's only on happy occasions, like Chinese New Year or weddings, that we eat jellyfish as part of the first dish at a 10-course Chinese dinner," said Miss Gan, a music teacher.

Jellyfish has been eaten by ethnic Chinese for centuries, in China and elsewhere. It is on the menu at most Chinese restaurants here but few non-Chinese diners order it.

Ready-to-eat jellyfish is available at the Asian DH (Da Hua) supermarket chain from $1.99 a packet, and comes with sachets of sesame oil and rice vinegar for seasoning.

Miss Gan describes the texture of jellyfish as "crunchy". It is sweet and savoury and goes well with noodles or rice porridge.

Exotic food enthusiast Eddie Lin says in his book Extreme Cuisine that jellyfish could be the "food solution" in a world of environmental concerns such as over-fishing and global warming.

Also, because jellyfish is 80 per cent collagen, it is good for treating arthritis, bronchitis and lowering blood pressure, he claims.

- Lincoln Tan

HERALD VERDICT

I made sure I hadn't eaten much before I got to work so I'd be ravenous and willing to eat anything when I got there.

The ready-to-eat packet made the jellyfish look a little intimidating with "Instant Natural Jellyfish" emblazoned across it. As if I needed reminding.

The nutritional information on the back revealed there are only 30 calories per serving, "so at least it's healthy," I found myself thinking.

Flavourings and sesame seed oil were added to the chopped-up sea creature and it smelt similar to seaweed salad. It actually looked quite appetising too. The long and thin shreds of jellyfish could easily have been mistaken for fettuccine.

"It's fettuccine which smells like seaweed salad," I repeated to myself before trying a small, stringy piece.

I don't know why I fussed; it actually tasted quite pleasant.

However, the texture was not as pleasing. Imagine trying to grind a sesame-flavoured bicycle tyre between your molars.

The professionally prepared jellyfish was nothing like a sesame-flavoured tyre.

It was presented in small canape tartlets with smoked salmon, wasabi and slightly sweet pastry.

The small squares of the sea creature could have been mistaken for the gelatine which sits on top of pate.

The first flavour to hit me was the salmon, followed by nut and sweet pastry which was followed with a hint of wasabi.

Unless I knew it was jellyfish, I would never have guessed - it was delicious and I would happily eat it prepared this way again.

- Amelia Wade

SANNAKJI

Could this be another fascinating seafood eating "trend" in Auckland?

Back in Korea, in a dish known as "sannakji", octopus tentacles are chopped into small pieces while the creature is still alive, then plated and eaten quickly with sauces.

Here, most would just have to make do with eating them raw.

This is a dish some Korean families have at home, but a restaurant that has chopped raw octopus tentacles on the menu is Korean-run Tokyo robatayaki bar in Glenfield, where "taco wasabe" is available for $5 a plate.

KIWI TWIST

"Kiwified" recipe: Jellyfish squares tartlets

* By chef: Robert Bok, executive pastry chef at SkyCity, originally from Malaysia.

* Jellyfish with smoked salmon, ratatouille and wasabi mayonnaise

- NZ Herald

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