Apart from bothering countless bathers every year and being fascinating specimens to watch undulate through the water, jellyfish are also a source of food to many Asian nations including China, Japan and Vietnam.
Not any old jellyfish mind, but one particular species, Rhopilema esculenta, which is fortunately harmless to swimmers and diners alike. This jellyfish, which is known as hoi chit in China has long tentacles, which drape down from a large upper canopy, just like a textbook jellyfish. The canopy grows to about 30 cm (12 in) across, the same size as an old style LP record.
Once the jellyfish are caught, the tentacles are removed and the canopy is salted, then sun dried. The end result resembles faded, crumpled parchment. Jellyfish is always sold dried, in small packets. These need to be soaked before use to reconstitute the jellyfish and to remove excess saltiness. Traditionally the reconstituting liquor is a mix of rice wine, ginger and water, but it is perfectly acceptable to use plain water.
So why should you eat a salty, sun dried sea blubber? Well, jellyfish has no flavour of it's own, making it the perfect vehicle for carrying full force flavours such as sesame, chilli and seaweed. More importantly, it has a fantastically crisp texture that is revered in Asia, particularly China. It has a very similar texture to the white cloud ear mushroom.
Game? Try this wonderful, summery salad.
Jellyfish salad with sesame, wakame and cloud ear
125 gm (1/4 lb) dried salted jellyfish
250 gm white cloud ear mushrooms
1 Tbs sesame seeds
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp rice vinegar
20 gm dried wakame seaweed
1 tsp sugar
3 green onions, sliced
Soak the jellyfish in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain and slice finely. Soak the wakame in warm water for 5 minutes and drain. Slice in a similar width to the jellyfish. Slice the cloud mushrooms to match. Combine in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients and set aside for 20 minutes to let the flavours get to know one another. If it is a particularly hot day, serve chilled.