There really is no shortage of weird and wonderful things that we see at the grocery stores here in China. Well, more weird and wacky, than wonderful, to be honest, but that is mainly due to the fact that it is all so foreign-looking to us. So what do we have to show you this week, on our latest edition of “China Groceries“? This week we present to you: A jar of Jellyfish heads. We found these just above the freezer section, so perhaps they need to be kept reasonably cold. I would hope so, since they are a form of seafood.
Although I was pretty sure that there were jellyfish, I messaged a Chinese friend to find out some more information about them. Some species of jellyfish are suitable for human consumption and are used as a source of food and as an ingredient in various dishes. Edible jellyfish is a seafood that is harvested and consumed in several Asian and Southeast Asian countries, and in some Asian countries it is considered to be a delicacy. Edible jellyfish is often processed into a dried product. Several types of foods and dishes may be prepared with edible jellyfish, including salads, sushi, noodles, main courses, and even ice cream. Various preparation methods exist.
My Chinese friend told me that these jellyfish are most popularly used in salads in China. Jellyfish salad, often part of the first course at a Chinese banquet meal, is made from the bell (海蜇皮). The thin round sheet is cut into strips resembling noodles and combined with cucumbers or other crunchy vegetables before being dressed in a fragrant garlic, black vinegar and sesame oil sauce. Another part of the jellyfish used to make cold dishes is the oral arms, known in Chinese as “jellyfish head” (海蜇頭). These coral shaped arms sit below the bell between the mouth and the tentacles. The oral arms are often sliced thinly and served icy cold with a side of black vinegar for dipping. Apparently, jellyfish will take on the flavor of the dressing and contribute a crunchy texture to the dish. They are not slimy or slippery, as you might imagine.
I’m pretty sure that we have been served jellyfish at a number of meals, but in all honesty, this is not something we would usually reach for at a Chinese meal. We usually grab what we know, or anything fried, so it’s not surprise that we don’t recall ever trying this. It is good to know that they are crunchy, rather than slimy, but I am still not sure you’ll see us serving this up anytime soon in the our home.