Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rehydrate and Clean Dried Sea Cucumber

I bought a lot of dried sea cucumbers, so it's time to rehydrate and clean some of them for cooking.  This is also my first time rehydrating dried sea cucumbers and I will only rehydrate a few for experiment.  I did a number of searches to see how others rehydrate their dried sea cucumbers and all I find is a simple method where you just soak, boil, and soak.  My dad uses the same method for rehydrating dried sea cucumber except he burn it first then soak.  My dad's method yield a larger meatier sea cucumber at the end.  The color is also more appetizing as it's golden brown instead of black.   But then it's a lot more work and more cleaning.  So I will sharing this simple method instead.

1.  Soak the dried sea cucumber for 2 days.  Change water daily.
2.  Drain the water.  Using shrimp paste and rub all over the dried sea cucumber.  Leave it for 6-7 hours at room temperature.  ***Shrimp paste helps to ease the cleaning of the dried sea cucumber.  Everything will come off easily.
3.  After 6-7 hours, wash and rinse off the shrimp paste.  Then bring the sea cucumber with some ginger to boil  in a clean and grease free pot.  After the water boil for a few minutes then turn the heat off and cover.  Let it cover until the next day.
4.  Take the sea cucumber out and use a brush to clean the skin.  Clean as much as you can.  Then place in a pot, add in some water and ginger, bring to boil again then turn off heat and cover.  Repeat this step for 2-3 days.
5.  By day 6, cut open the sea cucumber (stomach side) and remove intestine and clean the inside of the sea cucumber.  After done cleaning, you can just soak the sea cucumber in clean water.
6.  Depending on the size of your dried sea cucumber soak longer for thick and larger sea cucumber.  The smaller one will get soften faster but it doesn't hurt to soak it longer.  After rehydrating and cleaning, the sea cucumber is now ready for cooking.
I soaked 3 of about 5- 6 inches donkey dung sea cucumbers.

This is how my sea cucumbers look like after 7 days soaking.  The black color is not so appetizing so I had my dad to burn them over the flame for a little to lighten the color.

If you start with a large and fat dried sea cucumber then you'll get a large fat sea cucumber. My dad's sea cucumber  was fat and it was 7 inches when dry.  After using his method, his sea cucumber ended up 10 inches and really thick compared to my 5 inches.  Mine started at 5-6 inches and ended at 7-10 inches.

You can see the difference.  Mine was fat but not as thick compared to my dad's.

These are the one my dad soaked sea cucumbers.  He burn them first then use the method above to rehydrate them.  He been using his method for years and his sea cucumber always come out larger and thicker.  The color is also lighter as you burn away a layer of the skin.  But as you can see there's more cleaning need because burning these type of sea cucumber leads to many deep dirty lines and you'll have more brushing to do.  He started with 7-8 inches dried sea cucumbers and ended with 10-13 inches.

My dad usually rehydrate 6-8 dried sea cucumbers and then freeze them in freezer bags.  Rehydrated sea cucumbers freeze well so no worries about texture or taste change.

I'm pretty satisfied with the donkey dung sea cucumbers as they are a lot cheaper compared to other dried sea cucumbers plus they are meatier.  Because of this I just went and order some more for storage....hehehe.

***Remember, for any type of dried sea cucumber, always buy the straight, fat, large, and light in weight.  A very dry sea cucumber will yield you a larger sea cucumber.  Fat dried sea cucumber will give you a meatier thick sea cucumber after rehydration.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Where to Buy Dried Sea Cucumber?

Back in the days my family will buy dried sea cucumber locally or in NY.  However, we always afraid we got rip off since we don't know the store is honest seller or not.  Plus a lot of stores raise their prices and sometime you have to negotiate for a better deal.  Even then you thought you got a good deal but end up somewhere else is cheaper.  And some sea cucumber are so expensive you couldn't afford to eat it.  But now you're in luck because I found a place where we can buy dried sea cucumber and the owner is a nice lady (Lily) where she will help you pick and ship to your door.  The place I ordered my dried sea cucumber is from L.J.K Dried Food Wholesale located at South El Monte, CA.  This is a wholesale so the prices are a lot cheaper than those retail stores.  They are working on their site so it will be available later.  Guess how many pounds of dried sea cucumber I ordered.  Ordered 20 lbs of dried sea cucumber.  Yup...20lbs.  How in the whole am I going to finish them?  Well, they are dried so I can store them for a very long time.  I will also share these with my parents and have some for myself or give some to friends.  I think the reason why I ordered so many because the price is very reasonable.  

Here is the picture of my 20lbs dried sea cucumber.  I ordered three different kind ( 18lbs donkey dung, 1 lb bahama, and 1 lb floridian just to try these out first before I order more.)  The donkey dung (chinese name: Fu Pei Sum) is from Mexico.  I think the reason for the cheaper price is because it's from Mexico, harder to clean, and lives in the shallow water.  I have tried the donkey dung where I bought from a different store before.  The donkey dung (a weird name :) have a thicker meat compared to the other and tastes very good....of course that have to do with how you cook it.  At first I wasn't thinking of order donkey dung because it's harder to clean compared to other sea cucumber.  However, Lily changed my mind because she tells me a way to clean it and I'm going to try that method and will post later after the 7 days rehydrating process. So stay tune to how to rehydrate and clean the dried sea cucumber.  I also think you get more for your money on the donkey dung compared to other sea cucumber.  Plus, I learn that nutritional value of all sea cucumbers are similar or same, so way waste money on the more expensive one :).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Braised Abalone, Sea Cucumber and Mushroom

Hello everyone.  I've been away for a while but I'm back now.  Life is crazy busy with my two kids!  Lately I'm interested in buying and making sea cucumber (hoi sam).  I didn't measure my ingredients for this dish since I'm just testing my cooking.  My parents cook sea cucumber numerous times but I've never bother to learn how to clean or cook it.  But now I have my own family I'm getting more interest in cooking this dish.  It's a lot of work to rehydrate and clean the dried sea cucumber.  I've ordered some more dried sea cucumber so I will post how to rehydrate later.  I will also make this again later and include the recipe when I get more sea cucumbers.  For now, I'm just happy I'm back!