Summer: it’s what we fervently wished for as we shivered our way through the coldest winter for decades and froze our proverbials off well into May. And at last, it’s here, searing temperatures, rolling thunderstorms and all.
Long-disused barbecues have been brought out of rusting retirement, it’s ice-lollies a go-go and ice cream sales have rocketed by 300 per cent, leaving retailers’ freezers ‘looking like a scene from Beirut,’ according to The Grocer magazine. But as sun-starved families head to the beaches in vast droves, they’re coming face-to-face with a rather more unwelcome aspect of the summer heatwave – jellyfish…
Much has been made of the need to embrace ‘alternative proteins’ as the world population surges. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s recent report ‘Edible Insects: future prospects for food and feed security’, which encourages entomophagy (eating insects) as a way of boosting nutrition in a hungry world, caused a swarm of media interest in cooking with crickets and caterpillars (read our blog here).
I’d suggest an alternative: eat more jellyfish. As someone who’s eaten a fair few insects including (once, and never again) bee larvae in Yunnan in China and jellyfish, I’d happily recommend the latter.
Many westerners find the squidgy rubberiness of the likes of pig’s ears, cow’s tendons and duck feet off-putting, but the texture of food is highly valued in many Asian cuisines. And jellyfish dishes really can be delicious.
Jellyfish on the menu
Korean cooks are adept at turning prepared jellyfish, which has very little actual flavour, into a moreish salad. The thin, gelatinous, firm but chewy strips are combined with mustard and flavoured with sesame oil.
In China, says Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop, jellyfish is commonly served as a starter in coastal areas, including the Cantonese south. You can find jellyfish on the menu of Chinese restaurants in London such as Royal China, served with sesame seeds and green beans. In other dishes, the jellyfish strips are served with roast duck, white radish or with rice noodles and chicken.
Malaysian cooks call jellyfish ‘music to the teeth’, Japanese diners tuck into delicate jellyfish salad flavoured with sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar, and Vietnamese enjoy their jellyfish salads with chillies, fish sauce, chopped coriander and shredded carrots and cucumber. Perhaps its time to just get over the yuk factor?
Not all jellyfish are edible (some are actually toxic) but many species are. One of the most commonly eaten is Rhopilema esculenta, and you can buy dried, salted jellyfish in some Asian markets or online, if you’d like to give it a go.
Try these recipes
Sadly, the delicious. recipe database has no jellyfish recipes, but here are a few seafood dishes that should whet your appetite.