Posted by: adventuressetravels | February 8, 2011

The Sea Slug Massacre

photo by Lindsey Kneeland

Not a breath of air stirred the crystal clear water.  Gazing down from the deck of our boat we could see everything down to the sandy bottom 25-feet below as plain as day.  There was an enormous starfish, a baby black-tipped shark snaked his way under our boat in pursuit of

“There’s a sea cucumber,” the captain pointed at a large dark banana-shaped object.

A real sea cucumber?!  I couldn’t believe it.  I had just started hearing what a delicacy they were in Asian cuisine and even had found several recipes for them in a cookbook.  Now I could actually try one myself!

20 feet was too deep for me to dive, but I implored the more experienced divers in hopes that one of them would get it for me, promising to make them a delicious dinner.  That was all it took.  Not ten minutes later Tony dawned his flippers, snorkel and splashed overboard into the crystal clear water.

“here’s your sea cucumber,” he said, plopping the placed a lumpy brown object on the back deck.  I poked at it.  For a sea-slug the thing had a skin tougher than most leather.

I regarded the cucumber dubiously.  It looked more like a large brown turd than a cucumber.  To top things off the thing was peeing.  I watched in disgust as a thin stream of liquid shot out of a hole at one end.  How were you supposed to prepare these again?

I scoured the recipes for some clue to help me get started.  The one thing all recipes agreed on was that you had to remove the innards.  Hopefully once I got this thing open and took out its internal organs everything would be self explanatory.

With a deep breath I sucked it up and lugged the foot-and-a-half long creature into the kitchen.  I had agreed to make dinner, after all.  Not to mention I was curious to try a sea cucumber after all the hype.

The thing lay on the cutting board inert and repulsive.  There didn’t seem to be any way to do this and I clearly had to start somewhere.  I reached for the best chef’s knife we had.  That would do the trick.

photo by Lindsey Kneeland

Sawing at the shell of this ocean resident I was once again astonished that this creature  was considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures.  Almost the same moment I reached translucent, viscous center the captain called me up on deck they needed my help.

Five minutes later there was a cry of disgust, quickly followed by my bunkmate Lindsey.  “That thing is vomiting its insides out on the kitchen counter.  I just got done cleaning the kitchen!”

I followed her back inside, and cringed at what I saw.  The creature had spewed its intestines out as well as some other goo.   The white coils looked like they were filled sand.  I had to admit, I had no clue what a sea cucumber ate but I didn’t think anything ate sand.  My job  cleaning the internal organs done for me, I sawed the rest of the creature in half.  All I could do was stare.

How the hell was I supposed to do anything with this?  There was a little clear jelly, probably the remnants of the halved and a tough pithy white stuff which may or may not have been edible.  Unfortunately if it were edible that would probably only happen after it were boiled for about 22 hours.  Probably the recipes called for pre-prepared sea cucumbers, cleaned, possibly cooked

Poking the tough flesh a few last times I scooped up the halves and gave the poor creature a burial at sea resolving to wait until after I’d tried sea cucumber to even attempt to cook one.

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