Jellyfish are perhaps best known for causing painful stings, but they have also been a part of Asian cuisine for hundreds of years. Traditionally, the easily-spoiled medusas needed to be cured via a weeks long, labor-intensive process, making them a delicacy. But a new technique turns jellyfish into edible “crisps” in just a few days by soaking them in alcohol.
The novel preserving method was developed by gastro scientist Mie Thorborg Pedersen from the University of Southern Denmark and was detailed in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science earlier this year. After Motherboard’s Caroline Haskins heard about the crisps, she reached out to procure a sample of the futuristic food. Once they arrived from Europe, I gave them a try on camera.
I fried the jellyfish with olive oil, and tried dipping them in various condiments, including mayonnaise and soy sauce. I’m happy to report that alcohol-soaked jellyfish taste good—they’re both crunchy and salty. If you don’t enjoy seafood however, this potato-chip-like snack might not be for you. The jellyfish do taste distinctly like the ocean.
I wanted to try Pederson’s jellyfish not only for the novelty, but because they might be an example of the kind of food humans will rely on in the future. As overfishing and climate change continue to diminish the world’s fish supply, other species, like some jellyfish, are thriving. Though scientists aren’t quite sure why, an uptick in several jellyfish populations has been observed worldwide.
Many species are also “blooming” more often, or gathering into characteristic gigantic swarms, which can be a nightmare for fishermen and boats. Off the coast of Japan for example, the refrigerator-sized Nomura’s jellyfish has begun blooming annually, an event that used to take place only every 40 years. Soft-bodied, idyllic jellyfish are becoming an incredible nuisance, so it’s about time we start eating them in greater numbers.
Pedersen conducted her research using commonly-found Aurelia aurita, or moon jellyfish, which are one of the species that have been observed to be blooming with greater frequency. To preserve the moon jellyfish, Pedersen first soaks them in 96 percent ethanol for at least 24 hours. The jellyfish’s water content, or about 95 percent of its body, is replaced by alcohol, which eventually evaporates. What’s left is a thin, brown crisp.
The final product is much smaller and thinner than I imagined. Jellyfish crisps might make a nice garnish on top of a scallop, for example. I won’t be surprised when they show up on menus soon.