Sea cucumbers are a unique type of seafood that can be eaten raw, pickled, or fried. Found on the seabed all over the world, sea cucumbers are a highly esteemed delicacy in Chinese cuisine and are often served during Chinese New Year celebrations. If you've purchased dried sea cucumber, the guts have likely been removed, but you'll still need to rehydrate it before eating. Here's how to do it. To begin the rehydration process, place the dried sea cucumber in a container and submerge it in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours, changing the water every half hour.
Depending on the type of sea cucumber, this process can take up to six days. The most expensive type is the thorny sea cucumber, which is elongated and dark in color with a thorny exterior. Fresh sea cucumber that has already been cleaned and soaked is usually available in Asian markets in the cold food section or in containers with water. Sea cucumbers have a very neutral flavor and are quite bland, but they will acquire the flavors of the other ingredients with which they are cooked. A book from the Ming Dynasty points to its physical resemblance to men's genitals, which could contribute to its popularity as an ingredient at that time, given the Chinese belief that a specific part of the body can be reinforced by eating foods that have a similar shape.
A Qing book that analyzes the medicinal qualities of herbs and other food ingredients goes one step further and proclaims the ability of sea cucumbers to improve men's urological abilities. If you want to enjoy sea cucumbers, there are no shortcuts - you just have to rehydrate them yourself. Dried sea cucumber can be stored in its original packaging in a cool, dry place such as the pantry for up to three years.