Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. Just Offal is here to explore these oft-neglected byproducts of butchering, featuring different offal meals from establishments across the valley.
This week: Cold Jellyfish Salad served up by Lao Ching Hing.
The Ick Factor: Jellyfish will kill you stone cold and not think twice about it. Probably because they lack a brain. Or any organs, really. They're primarily composed of water with just a bit of jellied blob, after all. Jellyfish require some serious processing before they're fit for consumption, and you'll pretty much just be consuming the inflatable, top hat of the jelly. These odd, primordial sacks of offal are just amorphous floating blobs on the open sea that use their tentacles to catch and consume anything in their path. They're carnivores, cannibals, and depending on the species, what's for dinner.
(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: The cold jellyfish salad tossed in a briny scallion sauce, and served up by Lao Ching Hing. Jellyfish are a potent potable that's best consumed in small amounts, so the dim sum-sized portion was just right for sharing.
Tastes Just Like: Whatever you want it to taste like. Jellyfish is the ultimate culinary chameleon. Just like beef tendon or omasum, the flavor of jellyfish will absorb just about any saucy combo you add to it. The general combo of soy, chile oil, and sesame is a solid standby. Solo, the flavor of jellyfish is very mild, with just a hint of briny nuttiness.
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The texture of jellyfish is not so subtle. Ask any jellyfish fanatic (they do have a fan base!), and you'll hear that the appeal of these jellies depend more on their distinct texture than the near flavorless taste. What were once amorphous sea jellies take on the texture of gelatinous but al dente pasta. The closest food we've had by comparison would have to be thick glass noodles (also called cellophane or crystal noodles) that cook up clear, and are also pretty flavorless.
You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: It feels like your jaw is working overtime on a pile of overly salty rubber bands. Jellyfish should have the texture of al dente pasta with a light crunch, and since these are creatures of the sea, the last thing you want is to feel like you're sucking down a mouthful of saltwater. Rinse those jellies properly.
Always been a DIY-er? Good luck finding raw jellyfish period, let alone in Arizona. Instead of looking for a fresh batch of jellies, search the aisles of your local Asian market for preserved jellyfish. It's salted, dried out, and sold in flat disks. Let soak in water for a couple days to rehydrate and draw out the excess salt. Or if you need that jellyfish stat, boil it in hot water for about 15 minutes and then do the old rinse and dry, rinse and dry routine a handful of times until the jellyfish loses that briny flavor. After the jellyfish is prepped, you're ready to bust out with some vinegary, cold jellyfish salad.
Know of some offal that we just have to try? Let us know in the comment section.