Although it sounds like an underwater vegetable, the sea cucumber is a marine animal related to the starfish, though it looks more like a large caterpillar -- or a cucumber. Sea cucumbers have a mild flavour similar to clam and are primarily used in Asian cooking. It is most often purchased in a cleaned, dehydrated state that requires a lengthy soak before use in a recipe. You can purchase dried sea cucumber at Asian markets and some fish markets.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Dried sea cucumber
- Large pot
- Wok or frying pan
- Vegetable oil
- Fish or chicken stock
- Rice wine
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
Place the dried sea cucumber in a large pot. Cover it with cold water and cover the pot. Leave the sea cucumber to soak for 12 hours.
Heat the pot over a low flame after the long cold soak. Simmer for 1 to 2 hours, periodically checking to make sure that the water doesn't fall below the top of the sea cucumber; add more water as needed.
Remove the pot from the heat and allow the water to cool before draining the sea cucumber.
Slice the sea cucumber into 1-inch thick pieces and stir-fry in a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat, using little or no oil. Cover with about 2 cups of stock. Add rice wine, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and a bit of sugar to make a sauce. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until the sea cucumber is soft. Add cornflour to thicken the sauce before serving, if necessary.
Tips and warnings
- You can add vegetables such as mushrooms, pea pods or shredded cabbage to the wok during the stir-fry step, if desired.
- You can use any sauce you like to cook the sea cucumber, but make sure there is enough liquid, such as stock, for simmering.
- Do not skip or reduce the soaking time; the sea cucumber will be tough. To skip the soak, purchase fresh cleaned sea cucumber and use it immediately.
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