The Nasty Bits: Jellyfish
Given the merciless heat wave happening on the eastern seaboard, I have stopped eating meat. Something about it feels unpleasant when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Maybe because meat is so heavy and rich? But then again, so is ice cream and butter and chocolate...
This means I haven't been eating offal lately. Over the past month or two I've barely touched a liver, seen nary a gizzard, and have not once sliced my knife across a slab of fatback (with the skin still attached). It's just too hot for me to ingest these kinds of mammalian organs, but still I miss the textures.
I miss the bounce of tripe, the chewiness of tendon, the crunch of pork cracklings.
Piscine parts are a good alternative for hot weather. Fish eggs feel nice, the slippery little spheres, then the cool release of the egg bursting and sliding down the gullet. Or something like fish bones—that same guilty-pleasure-potato-chip-crunch, but much lighter than pork cracklings.
And then there's jellyfish. Only a few of the many species are edible; both the umbrella-like body and the arms can be eaten. Prepping it is a matter of removing the gonads and other inedible membranes in the body. The slivers of jellyfish are a little crunchy, a little chewy.
Dress the jellyfish in chili oil and a bit of soy sauce, Sichuan peppercorns, and a lot of oil made fragrant with browned garlic and scallions. The mixture tastes good with tripe, jellyfish, or even cold-dressed noodles, for that matter. The oil enriches the jellyfish, which has fairly bland flavor for all its textural excitement.
You'll find packs of jellyfish, either salted or not, at most Chinese markets and some Japanese ones, even those without a fish section. To use, rehydrate and rinse the jellyfish in several changes of cold water, then dress it in the fragrant oil mixture. All of it can be done in under ten minutes, and doesn't require more than two minutes of stove usage.
It's offal-reminiscent eating for hot summer's day.