The truth about eating a jellyfish

Why didn't I just order pho like these guys?

Why didn't I just order pho like these guys?

Who’da thunk it? Jellyfish, the stinging, unlovely, gelatinous, pint-sized boogeyman of the sea, is something you can order in a restaurant. Furthermore, some people do. Wierdos like me, for instance.

Let me explain.

While surveying the very long menu at Kearny Mesa Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant Phuong Trang recently, I was stunned to see the following:


Dear readers, I’m here to say I ate this and lived.

Now, if you’ve never eaten a jellyfish before, what would you expect that would be like? The thoughts that ran through my head as I waited for my dinner were something like:

– I will be zapped in the mouth, for sure.
– On the bright side, my swollen lips might then resemble Angelina Jolie’s.
– Will it zap me all the way down? Will I be acutely aware of my esophageal tract for days?
– What about the texture? That jellyfish I stepped on in Gulf Shores, Alabama was not something I’d want in my mouth. Eww.
– It felt like a condom. I’m NOT eating a condom.
– I really did it this time.

My dinner partners were all having pho, and tried to relate to my predicament by talking about the times they’d tried this Vietnamese beef soup with tripe in it. This was not helping. They eyed me nervously as I turned a soft shade of green.

Our entrees arrived, and mine looked like this:

Shrimp, Pork and Jellyfish Salad

Shrimp, Pork and Jellyfish Salad

It appeared pink and nonthreatening, though I reminded myself that live jellyfish also appear pink and nonthreatening. I sorted through the various components: peeled, halved and boiled shrimp, check. Thinly sliced pork, check. Shredded cucumber and mango in a light vinaigrette, check. Frills of greenery surrounded the plate. So where’s the sea monster already?

The sea monster I was about to eat

The sea monster I was about to eat

I finally picked out a pale yellow squiggle of flesh that I identified as jellyfish by simple process of elimination. I stabbed at it with my chopsticks. It felt firmer than I expected, and I felt relief. If cooked jellyfish had the texture of raw jellyfish, I wouldn’t be eating much of it. You know, the condom.

I looked in in the eye, so to speak, and stuck it in my mouth.

Nothing happened.

I did not get stung in the mouth, and then stung all the way down my throat. I didn’t choke, turn red, bug my eyes out or spit my mouthful across the table at my husband.

What I did do was chew thoughtfully on a rather bland piece of sea creature with almost no identifiable taste and a rubbery, wet texture somewhat like calamari, but perhaps less interesting.

It was a bigger letdown than the Star Wars prequels. Okay, not as big as that, but still, a letdown.

Despite my disappointment, I really liked the rest of the salad. The combination of cooked-just-enough shrimp and well-done pork, combined with the veggies and vinaigrette, was a real winner. I ate every bit of it, even the now-unexciting jellyfish.

Now if I can only find a sushi place that serves blowfish

2 Comments so far

  1. Peggy Gartin (thepegisin) on May 4th, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

    Woo hoo! This post got picked up by the local NBC affiliate:

  2. dickswizzle on May 5th, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    Angelina Jolie has finally passed that line, on one side of which is "exotic" and the other, "freak show"

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