Project Gastronome, Day 3: Jellyfish


Another day, another discovery from the Far East Supermarket!  I honestly had no idea until a little over a week ago that there was such a thing as edible jellyfish.  I'm sure that some research could tell me more, but I have so many questions.  Are these jellyfish some kind of subspecies that doesn't have stingers?  Do they have stingers, but there's some process that renders them safe?  Are they like mushrooms, in that you should never eat ones you have found in the wild, unless they have been confirmed as safe by an expert?  How do you humanely slaughter a jellyfish?  Are they kosher?  (Actually, a quick trip to Wikipedia confirms that they are not.)

Here is what I do know.  Nancy, the really friendly proprietor of Far East, told me to put back the package of jellyfish that I originally brought to the counter, and showed me the kind that I should get instead.  "First kind is too much work.  You must soak it for three days to remove the sand and seawater.  This kind is ready to eat."  So next time you hear somebody badmouth Lubbock, TX for not being cosmopolitan enough, you just tell that sonofabitch that we have more than one brand of edible jellyfish available to purchase and let them chew on that for a while.

Actually, chewing on something for a while is the perfect preparation for eating a package of jellyfish.

Nancy also told me that jellyfish is really good for you.  She was so nice that I didn't even tell her that I wondered if it was good for you in the sense that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

We had leftovers for dinner tonight, which gave me the perfect opportunity to eat one of my Project Gastronome foods without having to wait for the kids to be in bed and out of the way.  Courtney reheated some macaroni for Ava and Jack, some jambalaya and half a slice of pizza for Blake, and I checked the instructions on the back of my package of jellyfish.  Here's what the package looked like.

Somehow, I neglected to take a photo of the contents of the package, but there were four smaller packets inside.  One contained the jellyfish, and the other three were flavorings.  My first thought was how very much this looked like pre-cooked Ramen noodles.  One of the packets even looked exactly like the flavoring packet that comes with Ramen.  The other two were filled with sesame oil and soy sauce.  The instructions were pretty straightforward - put the jellyfish in a bowl, pour the seasonings on top and eat.  Simple enough!

Blake saw the package and said, "Hey, that's from China!"  Yeah, how did you know that?  "Because the letters are up and down, and one of them looks like a sideways K.  Also, that other one looks like a little house."

Before I'd even eaten a bite, this was different than the last two nights.  There was no smell.  With the pigs feet and eels, just opening them released a powerful scent.  I opened the jellyfish, expecting some sort of fishy smell, but instead smelled nothing.  Nothing.  The food had no scent at all.  I added the flavorings and took the bowl to the table, along with the ever-reliable Sriracha Rooster Sauce, which makes all things better.

First bite, first impression, it really was a lot like Ramen in taste, too, just much chewier and kind of crunchy.  It was crunchewy.  Jellyfish is a flavorless, odorless, crunchewy meal.  That sounds like a put-down, but it's not.  If somebody handed you a bowl of this without telling you what it was, you would think it was just a different kind of noodle.

Let's go to the tape.


parish said...

I love that you're writing about food. Unpretentious writing about food is one of the best things about the Internet!

I've only had jellyfish a few times, the best being at a Vietnamese wedding in Orange County where it was the main ingredient of a Chinese seafood salad that I could have eaten by the pound. It was delicious, but I suspect that had more to do with the spices and vegetables and other ingredients. Jellyfish, as you suggest, seems to exist more or less as a unique vehicle of texture for things that actually have flavor.

Roy B. said...

I'm so impressed w/ Blake!! I don't know if my kids would have tried jellyfish when they were that age.

There's no way in hell they would try it today!

Loving this project!

Danny said...

I've been surprised by his enthusiasm so far, too, especially for the item we're going to eat tonight. I think it comes down to four things.

1. I've been playing it up and trying to make it sound exciting.
2. I'm not trying to make him eat something that I'm not also going to eat.
3. The presence of a camera brings out his inner ham.
4. I probably underestimate this sometimes, but I think that of all the kids, he's the most willing to do something just so he can do it with me.

I'm glad to have you reading!

Anonymous said...

I love Ava stating totally unsolicited that she does not want to try it. It's like her preemtive declaration just in case there was any notion that the jellyfish might make the rounds, she's putting that baby to be quick style.

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