Yep, you read that right. Braised sea cucumber. As in, the big worm-looking echinoderm. We have a house full of picky eaters, for sure, except Brandan. Brandan is always ready to try a strange food. Specifically, a strange protein. (While he will try new vegetables, his focus is generally on meat, seafood, and the like.) He’s talked about sea cucumber multiple times in the past, and my response has always been “Honey, I have no idea where to buy such a thing.” So each time it was Brandan’s turn to cook, we turned to other options.
A few weeks ago, the new 99 Ranch Market opened near our home. I visited during the grand opening. We already have many other Asian markets in the area that are exceptional, and I love that each is unique. 99 Ranch Market was no exception. They sold things I’d only read about – durians, jackfruit…and sea cucumber.
I was giddy when I found it. They sold it several ways – frozen, frozen and pre-sliced, and fresh. When I next saw Brandan, I told him about it. Needless to say, he was excited. I cautioned him that I’d never eaten it, and while I researched a bit on how to cook it (I explained the recipe, and what I read about the general flavor and texture), there was no guarantee we’d get it right, because I was unfamiliar. He was up for the challenge, and so we made plans to make it this weekend.
Once we got down to it, it wasn’t hard to make. The big “hassle” was that it needed to be cleaned and blanched prior to cooking. No biggie. It only took us about 45 minutes from start to finish. (That’s probably about 30 minutes in regular cooking time)
The verdict? Not bad. Sea cucumber really has no flavor on its own, so it adopts the flavor of the sauce. The texture is what is most interesting. It’s gelatinous. Which in my mind isn’t a bad thing – I love texture. Slippery, slimy, crunchy, chewy – all good for me. Brandan ate it and thought it was interesting. As for everyone else? Well, as I said before, we have a house of picky eaters. And Brandan and I had as much sea cucumber as we liked.
Braised Sea Cucumber, adapted from healthy-chinese-recipes.com
1 lb fresh or reconstituted sea cucumbers
5 T grapeseed oil
2 carrots, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
5 T grapeseed oil
1/2 t ginger, grated
1/2 t garlic, grated
1 t rice wine
1 T gluten-free soy sauce
4 fl oz chicken stock
1 t agave nectar
1 T arrowroot powder
1/4 t sesame oil
Slice the sea cucumbers at the stomach and rinse clean. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch sea cucumbers for 1 minute. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and drain. Set aside.
Heat grapeseed oil in a large wok or skillet to medium-high heat. Add the carrots and onion and stir-fry until tender, 2 minutes or so. Add the sea cucumber and stir-fry for another minute.
In a medium bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, rice wine, gluten-free soy sauce, chicken stock, agave nectar, and arrowroot and whisk together. Pour sauce into wok and stir. When sauce comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until thickened. Drizzle sesame oil over and serve over steamed jasmine rice.