The sea cucumber, which has been an appreciated traditional food item along the coasts of South East Asia for many generations, is now beginning to show up on dinner tables across the globe. The vast majority of the captured sea cucumbers are however still devoured in South East Asia and countries such as China and Japan are big importers of the delicacy.

This time of year, divers canvass the waters of Alaska in search of a particular species of sea cucumber for the export market; the long and warty Parastichopus californicus. Parastichopus californicus, also known as the giant California sea cucumber, has a soft, cylindrical body and can reach a length of 50 cm. The endoskeleton is found right under the leathery yellowish skin and five rows of tube feet extends from the mouth to the anus on the underside of the body.

giant California sea cucumber Sea cucumber for dinner tonight?
giant California sea cucumber

In Alaska, sea cucumber catching is strictly regulated and a diver is not allowed to catch more than his or her daily bag limit. When an area opens during the cucumber season, the catchers have seven hours on Monday and four hours on Tuesday to collect their daily bag limit – 2,000 pounds per person. With one sea cucumber weighing 0.5 pounds or less, you can actually catch thousands of cucumbers without reaching your daily limit. Last year, 179 divers participated in the event, which is well below the authorized maximum of 389.

In most cases, only the skin of the cucumber is shipped off to Asia, not the entire animal. Before being exported, the skin is typically boiled and salted until it shrivels and turns black.

sea cucumber Sea cucumber for dinner tonight?
Exotic sea cucumber (giant California sea cucumber)

Enokitake Soup with Clams and Sea Cucumber

Ingredients

1.2 kg whole chicken (no skin)

1 large sea cucumber

30 g dried scallops

1 can clams

80 g fresh enokitake (golden needle mushroom)

30 g coriander leaves

salt and pepper

Method

1.) Cut the chicken into pieces. You can remove the bones or leave them, it’s up to you.

2.) Soak the sea cucumber and cut it into big pieces.

3.) Bring 2.5 litres of water to a boil in a pot.

4.) Add chicken, scallops and sea cucumber.

5.) Bring the water to a boil again.

6.) Reduce to low heat and leave to simmer until ingredients are tender.

7.) Add clams and enokitake.

8.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

9.) Bring to a boil.

10.) Place in soap bowls, sprinkle with coriander leaves and serve.