Monday, February 1, 2010
Dr. Albert Lee is back with pulutan, having gotten a craving for it after reading Drink of Angels.
The doctor is in!
Becher-de-mer, the fancy French name for sea slugs or sea cucumbers, are marine animals used in oriental cuisines. it's called namako in japan, and balatan in the Philippines. In china, it is also called sea ginseng because of its "medicinal values." It is considered to be an aphrodisiac by some believers (I ain't one of them). It's a "yang" food (as in yin and yang). Sea slug dishes are usually served along with the other high-end Chinese food in banquets such as shark fin's soup, bird's nest soup, abalone, Peking duck etc.
Sea cucumbers are usually harvested, dried and traded in places like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea,and Japan. In Palawan, Philippines, sea cucumbers are being cultured and sold to the different countries mentioned above.
For home consumption, sea cucumber can be purchased dried or the re-hydrated type ready for use. Let's stick to the re-hydrated type for our home cooking because the dried ones will take days to prepare and I don't want to discourage anyone from trying to prepare this dish because of time constraint.
There are only a few basic items you will need to prepare this dish. Be adventurous and do it at least once just for the fun of it. If you have never eaten sea cucumber before, you may want to try it in a restaurant to see whether you like it or not before attempting to prepare it yourself. Gelatinous food likes cooked pork or beef tendon is also an acquired taste. I know of many friends of mine who don't care much about eating such stuff.
This recipe calls for the following:
1 can of abalone, set aside the juice. Slice the abalone into thin slices
6 pieces of dried black Chinese mushroom, pre-soaked, ready for use
1/2 cup of cooking wine
salt to taste
Slow cook the sea cucumber in 4 cups of chicken stock for 1 hour or until it is tender, adding more stock if needed. Bring to a boil, then add the mushrooms, soy, cooking wine, salt, garlic and the juice from the canned abalone. When the sea cucumber is tender enough, you will notice that the juice will become gelatinous. For a thicker juice, add a teaspoon of tapioca flour dissolved in water. Put the dish in a platter lined with leafy lettuce (for good presentation only), place the sliced abalone on top and garnish with the scallions. You may also want to arrange the mushrooms around the platter for good appearance or some pre-boiled baby bok choy as the sapin. Serve with white rice. Sea cucumber is rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Some people claimed it is good for people suffering from arthritis.