Cooking with jellyfish

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Experimental Spanish chefs try using jellyfish as a main ingredient in their dishes.

2 October 2008

MADRID -- In Asia, the Chinese and the Japanese began cooking with jellyfish many years ago. In Spain, however, chefs are only now trying to do the same.
One of the first Spaniards to cook jellyfish dishes is Carme Ruscalleda, a Catalan chef who won five Michelin stars for her Barcelona restaurant, Sant Pau. There, she cooked the traditional Spanish noodle dish fideuá using Mediterranean jellyfish instead of other seafood. Ruscalleda also made a vegetable-and-jellyfish dish with vinaigrette.
"Beautiful sea princesses" is what Ruscalleda calls the sea animals, but she only served the dishes to her staff. "Offering jellyfish as an hors d'oeuvre is quite a provocation", admits the Catalan chef.
She first cooked jellyfish in 2006, when she started imitating the Chinese. "We began with Rhopilema esculentum, which we bought in Chinese food stores in Barcelona. We put them in marine salt for 12 hours while still alive, then sliced them open, cleaned the insides, desalted them, and sprinkled them with vinaigrette - or we placed them on top of a fideuá that has been just taken out of the oven.
"We have not offered them to the public yet", says Ruscalleda. "We will continue to experiment, but we are not going to work with jellyfish until we get the go-ahead from marine scientists, or without a regular supplier".
The texture of jellyfish is similar to that of the raw calamari used in sushi. The Cádiz chef Ángel León, who works with microalgae and other Atlantic and Mediterranean species, says that "jellyfish have a very intense sea flavour and a surreal texture", before saying that he is "not sure the Spanish public is prepared for them."

[El Pais / Rosa Rivas / Expatica]

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