The one of the holothurians, commonly known as sea cucumber, It is a family of animals that inhabit the bottoms of the seas around the world. Despite their a priori unpleasant appearance – in Latin America they are known directly as “Sea landmark”-, its use as food is present in many cultures.
In Spain, we know the interior of the animal as “espardeña”, an ingredient that usually used as if it were a mollusk, highly appreciated in haute cuisine. But in much of Asia, where it is a luxury product (very expensive), what is used is not the interior of the animal, but its bark.
This is how the Hong Kong chef explained it Vicky Cheng, who has given one of the most interesting presentations that we have on Madrid Fusión. The cook, despite being a native of the former British colony in China, has been trained in western stoves, in Canada and the United States, where he learned all the classical French techniques. When four years ago he opened his own restaurant in his hometown, See, he did it with the idea of applying everything he learned from his mentor Daniel Boulud to Chinese ingredients, including sea cucumber.
As Cheng points out, this ingredient considered a deli in China -also in Japan, Malaysia or the Philippines- hardly found in western Asian restaurantsIt is an expensive dish, which requires a complex preparation and for which most of the diners are not prepared.
The Cook spent eight months developing his version of the plate, looking for a way to cook the animal in the Chinese style, starting from the dehydrated product, but finishing it in the classic way, with a texture suitable for all palates. And he has explained step by step how to do it.
Espardeñas are a by-product
In China the sea cucumber you always buy dehydrated, a process that, curiously, is carried out in Japan, a country from which many marine products are imported. There the animal dries until its size is reduced almost five times. This little product It is a luxury good, which can cost up to 15 euros, although its price varies depending on the number of tines it has: the more tines, the more expensive. In a restaurant, sea cucumber dishes usually cost between 40 and 50 euros. It is one of the largest deli of Chinese gastronomy.
Your restaurant overcharge has a lot to do with the tedious dehydration process of the animal. As Cheng explained, it must first be left to hydrate for two days in warm water, then it must be immersed in boiling water for 12 hours to remove it, clean it from mud, and return it to hot water for another 12 hours. It is then, three days later, when it is necessary to cut it, remove the mouth, remove the inside -our espardeñas, which in China use as a by-product for other stews-, to obtain the already softened topping, which is the one used in dishes. .
And this is where Cheng’s inventiveness comes in: “The sea cucumber, even for someone from Hong Kong, It is not for everybody, it is very gelatinous. I thought about mixing the knowledge of two cultures, so knowing that a lot of people don’t want to eat it, I thought that if I wanted to put it on the menu I had to change the texture, change the gelatin for something crunchy ”.
Once the skin of the sea cucumber is dehydrated, which reminds of the inner tube of a tire, Cheng fills this with a mousse that, in this case, and being in Madrid, he has made with police. After this, cover the cucumber in film and steam it for 10 minutes, put it in the fridge and, after a few hours, he fries it by pouring very hot oil on top, which causes a change in its texture: the inside is still very soft and gelatinous, but the outside is crunchy, which is more pleasant.
Cheng claims to have made many versions of this dish, all similar. In this one, specially designed for Madrid Fusion, the cucumber it is accompanied on the plate with a carabinero tartare, a sauce made with the head of this, and a little yellow wine from Hong Kong. The result is that you can see in the opening photo. I wish I could have tried it.
Images | Reale Seguros Madrid Fusion / Alibaba / iStock
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