MEET AND EAT THE SEA CU­CUM­BER

SAVEUR - - Primer -

AP­PEAR­ANCE

Sea cu­cum­bers are echin­o­derms, a phy­lum of in­ver­te­brates that in­cludes starfish, sand dol­lars, and sea urchins. Their bod­ies fea­ture pen­tara­dial sym­me­try—five car­ti­lagi­nous bands that run along their length. Most are be­tween 4 and 11 inches long; some can reach nearly 10 feet fully ex­tended.

BY ANY OTHER NAME

In English they are also known as holothuri­ans. The French call them bêche-de­mer (“spade of the sea”), the Chi­nese say haishen (“gin­seng of the sea,” al­lud­ing to their li­bi­doen­hanc­ing ap­pli­ca­tion), and in the Pa­cific Is­lands they’re called trepang, a term that can also re­fer to har­vest­ing cukes.

ON THE PLATE

Firm, gelati­nous, and mostly fla­vor­less, sea cu­cum­bers are best pre­pared in dishes where they ab­sorb fla­vors and pro­vide tex­ture. Un­less caught fresh, they can be found at Asian markets whole and de­hy­drated. Once soaked, they are of­ten sliced and served in soups, braises, or stir-fries all across Asia.

HIT EJECT

When threat­ened, many sea cu­cum­bers will vi­o­lently con­tract their bod­ies, eject­ing their in­ter­nal or­gans into the wa­ter to nav­i­gate an es­cape. Thank­fully, their ab­sent in­nards re­gen­er­ate.

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