Working with Jellyfish
Jellyfish, Bell and Head Jellyfish are very popular as appetizers and in appetizer salads throughout East and Southeast Asia. Japan is currently the largest consumer of jellyfish, but it is also popular in Korea, China and Thailand. From the high availability here, you can presume plenty are also consumed in Southern California. They have a firm, crunchy texture and readily absorb the flavors of dressings and dips. Preparation takes a little time but very little attention.

The photo to the left shows two of the forms sold here in Southern California. The Bell (right in photo) is usually called the "body", and the cluster of mouth tentacles (left in photo) is called the "head". The third form sold is shredded, which is usually mostly or entirely from the bell.

The bell in the photo was 7 inches across and about 0.06 inch thick. A batch of 6 had an average weight of 1.4 ounces each. The "heads" were up to 2-1/8 inches diameter and 2-1/2 inches long, with an average weight of 2.1 ounces. From the brown color around the edge of the bell, I believe it was from a Cannonball Jelly.

More on Jellyfish

Jellyfish Salad Jellyfish are caught in nets, then immediately stripped of their tentacles and gonads. They are separated into "heads" and "bodies", processed with salt and sometimes alum, and compressed. If not processed this way, the jellyfish would spoil and turn to liquid in just a few hours. The process, which takes from 20 to 40 days, produces "dried jellyfish", a firm, stable product. It is not actually dry, but heavily brined, and is only 7% to 10% of the original weight.

Jellyfish bells are most often made into salads, like the one in the photo to the left. "Heads" are often simply sliced and served as an appetizer with a dish of Chingkiang Black Vinegar for dipping.

Packages of Jellyfish Buying:   Because of the huge Asian populations in Southern California, we have many Asian markets here, most of which have dried jellyfish in stock, though I haven't noticed it in the Philippine markets. It is generally in 14 ounce unrefrigerated packages, as shown in the photo, selling for about 2016 US $2.99 per package. The packages may contain "heads", "bodies", or shredded jellyfish. They may or may not be marked, but it's easy to tell which one it is. The contents is wet with strong brine and includes some free salt. "Instant Jellyfish" is now also available, shredded, sterilized and packed in plastic pouches. I have not tried that version.

A few markets carry tubs of jellyfish heads and bells already de-salted. The specimens in the photo top left were purchased from the tubs of an Asian market in Los Angeles (Alhambra) for 2016 US $3.59 per pound (sale price, usually $3.99).

Yield:   "Dried jellyfish" is not actually dry, and will not swell and gain weight like other dried foods. A 14 ounce package will yield about 7 ounces after rinsing, soaking and wringing out. If presoaked from a tub, the loss will be much less.

Preparation:   Preparation takes time but very little labor.

Cooking:   Jellyfish is always served raw, just lightly scalded as given above. I decided to find out what it was like cooked. Result: it quickly loses its snappy freshness and both color and flavor becomes darker. By 5 minutes simmering its texture is significantly degraded and it has become a light tan color. Not recommended.

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