Sea cucumber shows up in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine. “Koreans love sea cucumber sashimi. It’s a VERY acquired taste IMHO, and requires the accompaniment of soju,” says joonjoon. “I also love the Chinese braised preparations.” “In Japan, it is served as sunomono—marinated in vinegar as a salad-like appetizer,” says Tripeler. “It is called ‘namako’ and people first cut the ends off, split it down the middle and gut it before marinating. Actually, I like it best in Chinese food.”
Sea cucumbers “require braising or they’re tough,” says Caroline1. “I only tried to pound one once the way I pounded abalone to tenderize it, and never tried that trick again! They don’t have a lot of flavor on their own, but lend themselves nicely to very subtle Japanese type soups, and they’re also an interesting addition to seafood stews.” Indeed, sea cucumber is almost tasteless; but it’s not about the taste, it’s about the texture, says scoopG. “High-end sea cucumber sells for over US$ 2000 a pound in China!” says scoopG.
And ipsedixit has found an all-American use for sea cucumbers: a juicy addition to meatloaf. “If you ever get your hands on re-hydrated sea cucumbers (they’re usually sold dried and have to be reconstituted in water), you’ll know that they have this gelatinous, jelly-like taste and texture,” says ipsedixit. “And, most importantly, they are essentially tasteless. Lovely little tubers these things are! Which is why, in my opinion, they almost perfectly replicate cooked fat. It’s that soft, moist, gelatinous texture that they have in the mouth that makes them almost like a second cousin to fat.”