Sea cucumber (food)
|Cantonese Jyutping||hoi2 sam1|
|Literal meaning||sea ginseng|
Sea cucumbers are marine animals of the class Holothuroidea used in fresh or dried form in various cuisines.
The creature and the food product are commonly known as bêche-de-mer (lit. "sea-spade") in French, trepang (or trīpang) in Indonesian, namako in Japanese, and balatan in Tagalog. In Malay it is known as the gamat.
There are a number of dishes made with sea cucumber as this ingredient is expected to have a strong cultural emphasis on health. In most dishes, the sea cucumber has a slippery texture. Common ingredients that go with sea cucumber dishes include winter melon, dried scallop, kai-lan, Shiitake mushroom, and Chinese cabbage.
Sea cucumbers destined for food are traditionally harvested by hand from small watercraft; a process anglicised into "trepanging" (after the Indonesian noun trepang). They are dried for preservation purposes and have to be rehydrated by boiling and soaking in water for several days. They are mainly used as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine soups or stews.
There are many commercially important species of sea cucumber that are harvested and dried for export for use in Chinese cuisine as Hoi sam. Some of the more commonly found species in markets include:
- Holothuria scabra (sandfish)
- Holothuria spinifera (brown sandfish)
- Holothuria fuscogilva (Bat susu, white teatfish)
- Actinopyga mauritiana (Spiny sea cucumber)
- Stichius japonicus
- Parastichopus californicus (giant California sea cucumber)
- Thelenota ananas (prickly redfish)
- Acaudina molpadioides
Western Australia has sea cucumber fisheries from Exmouth to the border of the Northern Territory, almost all of the catch is sandfish (Holothuria scabra). The fishing of the various species known as Bêche-de-mer is regulated by state and federal legislation.
Five other species are targeted in the state's Bêche-de-mer harvest, these are Holothuria noblis (white teatfish); Holothuria whitmaei (black fish); Thelenota ananas (prickly redfish); Actinopyga echninitis (deep-water redfish); and Holothuria atra (lolly fish).
In the far north of Queensland, Australia, sea cucumber are harvested from the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. Targeted species include Holothuria noblis (white teatfish), Holothuria whitmaei (black teatfish) and Holothuria scabra (sand fish). Divers are supplied air via hose or "hookah" from the surface and collect their catch by hand, diving to depths of up to 40 meters.
The largest American species is Holothuria floridana, which abounds just below low-water mark on the Florida reefs. There are plans to harvest this species for the sea cucumber market.
The trade in Trepang, between Macassans seafarers and the aborigines of Arnhem Land, to supply the markets of Southern China is the first recorded example of trade between the inhabitants of the Australian continent and their Asian neighbours
The Asian market for sea cucumber is estimated to be US$60 million. The dried form account for 95% of the sea cucumber traded annually in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan.
It is typically used in Chinese cuisines. The biggest re-exporter in the trade is China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. There are also 650 species of sea cucumbers, of which just 10 species have commercial value.
In Japan, sea cucumber is also eaten raw, as sashimi, or sunomono. And its intestine is also eaten as 'konowata', which is salted and fermented food (one of a variety of shiokara). The dried ovary of sea cucumber is also eaten, which is called 'konoko'(このこ) or 'kuchiko'(くちこ).
The health minister of Malaysia (KKM) has considered sea cucumber as halal, as it is cited in the bottle of Agen Jelly Gamat Luxor.
There is a fresh form and there is a dried form. Both the fresh and dried form are used for cooking. The taste is described as "tasteless and bland". Individually, the dried form is also used for traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese folk belief attributes male sexual health and aphrodisiac qualities to the sea-cucumber, as it physically resembles a phallus, and uses a defence mechanism similar to ejaculation as it stiffens and squirts a jet of water at the aggressor. It is also considered a restorative for tendonitis and arthritis.
Braised sea cucumber with mushrooms, pork, and tea eggs
See also 
- Alessandro Lovatelli, C. Conand, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Advances in sea cucumber aquaculture and management: Volume 463 of FAO fisheries technical paper United Nations Food & Agriculture Org., 2004. ISBN 978-92-5-105163-4. 425 pages: 58
- RAMOFAFIA C., BYRNE M., BATTAGLENE S. C (2003). "Development of three commercial sea cucumbers, Holothuria scabra, H. fuscogilva and Actinopyga mauritiana: larval structure and growth". Marine and freshwater research 54 (5): 657–667. doi:10.1071/MF02145. ISSN 1323-1650.
- Palomares, M. L. D. and Pauly, D., eds. (2011). "Holothuria scabra" in SeaLifeBase. November 2011 version.
- Palomares, M. L. D. and Pauly, D., eds. (2011). "Holothuria spinifera" in SeaLifeBase. November 2011 version.
- Palomares, M. L. D. and Pauly, D., eds. (2011). "Holothuria fuscogilva" in SeaLifeBase. November 2011 version.
- Palomares, M. L. D. and Pauly, D., eds. (2011). "Actinopyga mauritiana" in SeaLifeBase. November 2011 version.
- Parastichopus californicus Census of Life. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
- Palomares, M. L. D. and Pauly, D., eds. (2011). "Thelenota ananas" in SeaLifeBase. November 2011 version.
- Palomares, M. L. D. and Pauly, D., eds. (2011). "Acaudina molpadioides" in SeaLifeBase. November 2011 version.
- Brown, S.; Hart, A. (May, 2004). "Beche-de-mer fishery status report". State of the fisheries report. Department of fisheries. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- Huang, Yao-Wen. Liu KeShun. Wang, Catharina Yung-Kang. Ang.  (1999). ISBN 1-56676-736-9
- Rone de Beauvoir, 2005. Decadent Meals and Desserts: How to Conjure Up Love with Aprhodisaics. Lulu.com, 2005. ISBN 978-1-882682-01-0, pp60
- Texts on Wikisource: