They are not a variation of the vegetable but is a type of seafood consumed in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. The sea cucumber is an oblong-shaped, gelatinous creature that is of the class Holothuroidea and distantly related to starfish and sea urchins.
The literal translation of 海參 (sea cucumber) means “ocean ginseng” or “ginseng of the sea” because its therapeutic effect is comparable to the ground ginseng.
The ingredient is most commonly consumed in a dried form, popularly called the bêche-de-meror trepang and is cooked often with soups and stews. They also contain many powerful substances, including antioxidants, which are good for your health. Sea cucumbers are high in protein, with most species comprising 41–63% protein.
Sea cucumber is sold dried and needs to be boiled before it is added to stir-fries, soup or braised dishes.
How to prepare dried sea cucumbers:
The sea cucumber cannot be in contact with any oil, salt or alkali until it gets soft.
Rehydrate the sea cucumbers by putting the sea cucumbers in the pot with room temperature water after gently wipe off any salts on their surface.
Soak the sea cucumbers for 4-5 days until it's completely soft. Keep refrigerated if the room temperature is too warm. Replace with fresh water once a day.
Once the sea cucumber has softened, place it in a grease-free pot with clean water, bring it to a boil and turn it down to low heat for 15 minutes; Then cover and simmer until naturally cooled down;
Continue to soak overnight, and bring to a boil the next day; then cover with a lid, simmer for 10 minutes. Leave it in the pot until cooled down.
Check on the consistency by squeezing the centre of the sea cucumber. They will be ready to use when the centre is the consistency of soft rubber and the surface is slippery and slimy.
Rinse the soften sea cucumber and remove the organs inside.
Place the cleaned sea cucumbers back in a grease-free pot and fill with clean water; continue to soak for another 3 days until the sea cucumber has fully expanded and rehydrated. Remember to replace fresh water once a day.
You may store the hydrated sea cucumbers in the freezer and consume them anytime you like.
Sea cucumbers are usually braised in sauce and served as one of the main dishes in a course. It can also be added with other ingredients to make a healing soup.