Having grown up in Hong Kong I have always been exposed to all types of food. Hong Kong is unique not only as a city with it’s tall architectural buildings to the narrow winding roads up and down the mountains. Decadent lifestyle is what Hong Kong people are used to with the best gourmet food being served at events in this cosmopolitan city. So what exactly are the types of exotic treasures that can be found here? Today I will introduce you to some of the rather less well known. Food is serious business and in Hong Kong we definitely take it very seriously.
Chinese people LOVE jellyfish as an appetizer. It is not something non-Asians are familiar with but it is becoming widely popular. I am not sure why there is such a fascination with this delicacy because on it’s own it really is rather bland and flavorless. The taste really comes from the seasoning, which typically consists of soya sauce, sesame oil, salt and sesame seeds. Sometimes chilli is added for a touch of spice. Contrary to popular belief, it has been said that the Chinese were not the first ones to eat jellyfish. Romans had it too and now the Japanese are starting to really love this dish as well. It may look like a chewy rubber band but surprisingly, you will find it to be quite smooth upon first bite and not hard to consume. It is a softer version of bone cartilage in terms of texture. Growing up this was one of my dad’s favorite dishes and we had this almost two times a week prepared at home just like this. Now, I cannot eat jellyfish without thinking of my dad. Here is a quick and easy recipe for you to try at home:
- 0.50 lb jellyfish
- 2 teaspoons soya sauce
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons chilli sauce
- 1 small green onions
- 3 tablespoons sesame seed
How to make Sesame Jellyfish With Chilli Sauce
- Prepare jellyfish as directed on package. This step usually takes about three hours. Jellyfish should be dried and desalted before using.
- Chop the green onion into small pieces.
- Mix the jellyfish, green onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, and chilli sauce together in a bowl or other container.
- Stir so that all the jellyfish strips are coated with the sauce mixture.
- Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes refrigerated — the longer the better.
- Serve chilled.
It has been said that no other shellfish actually makes you feel closer to tasting the sea than goose barnacles (seen above). Found off the coast of Barcelona, goose barnacles has been enjoyed in Spain and Portugal for centuries. This prized dish, though, does come at a price. A high price. Even though the goose barnacle seems to resemble a dinosaur claw, it is also known to be one of the most beautiful foods on the planet. They also take a lot of work to catch and can be found clinging stubbornly to rocks, sometimes all the way to the restaurants they are still attached to the rocks they were found on. It is mostly served as a tapas dish after being just boiled in salt water. For a more Asian touch, it is made with garlic and sometimes soya sauce as well. Acceptance of this dish worldwide is still mixed but popularity in Hong Kong has grown in recent years.
Most of us are familiar now with sea urchins being a part of Japanese cuisine. However, this is a Brittany Sea Urchin and they can be found in the cool waters of Brittany, France. Wikipedia describes it as: “Sea urchins are small, spiny, globular animals which, with their close kin, constitute the class Echinoidea of the echinoderm phylum. They inhibit all oceans. They move slowly. Humans harvest them and serve their roe as a delicacy”. It is definitely an acquired taste. It has only grown on me as something I can now really enjoy in the past 3 years. Prior to that, I wouldn’t even touch it. October to April is sea urchin season so now is the time for you to be adventurous and find yourself some. You will find yourself paying a handsome price for these, however, you will find the taste very distinct, tangy and smooth. If you do not enjoy sea urchins, then you might find it very bitter.
Osiblue prawns are often referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of their species. Osiblue is an exceptional shrimp of the Litopenaeus Stylirostris species. It has a unique taste, a fruity, slightly iodised flavor and firm, melt-in-the-mouth flesh that is reminiscent of langoustine and lobster. It is pretty in color with it’s almost translucent blue body and dark long tail. This is the only French shrimp that is recognized as Japanese sashimi quality. From the moment they come into existence they are already special. Found off the coast of New Caledonia in Eastern Australia, osiblue prawns are farmed in low-density cages located in the pristine waters that ensure that the prawns grow stress free to it’s biggest potential. Growth hormones, antibiotics artificial substances are banned from their environment. Surprisingly, the size remains the same even after cooking. To even obtain an osiblue prawn classification, each one is examined individually after being caught and then transported as a flawless whole shrimp. Eaten in it’s raw state shows off the bouncy firmness of the meat as well as an unparalleled sweetness. It is no wonder that this is served on most Michelin-star menus. Next time you see osiblue prawns on the menu, give it a try. I guarantee you will not regret it and be hooked for life!
Hokkaido is known for many things, but perhaps the most well known are their crabs. There are four types of crab that can be caught in Hokkaido – Kong crabs, Hanasaki Queen crabs, hairy crabs and snow crabs. King crabs are the largest and can be caught in the Sea of Ohotsuk. Hanasaki or Queen crabs are mainly found around Nemuro, the Eastern part of Hokkaido. I love my Hokkaido crab meat and eat it any chance I can. The meat is heavenly sweet and the irresistible aroma that rises from the different ways this meat can be prepared just makes your mouth water even before digging in. One of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong to go for Hokkaido crab is Kanizen, located in Wan Chai. Above are some pictures from my last meal there.
Scorpion Fish. Just the name itself makes one apprehensive about trying it. The uncooked version looks like a scary orange monster, slimy and with savage looking teeth and venom-covered spikes. Unknown to most, the roe and internal organs are deadly poisonous. Once you look past appearances, then you will find that the flesh is tender and juicy as well as firm. The scorpion fish is caught by line in the seas of Eastern Australia and Spain. It can be served Asian style as well as Western style in a variety of ways from being pan fried to steamed to being placed with pasta.
Hopefully I have opened your eyes and stomach to a few exotic treasures to be found out there. I consider myself truly lucky to have tasted so many magnificent cuisines around the world. Being exposed to all types of food is the first step to really experiencing what gourmet eating means. Beware, once you expose your taste buds there is no going back!