Mother is the typical hardworking Hakka woman, who works tirelessly to provide for us and cooks only the best meal especially during Chinese New Year, where all dishes have to be made out of the best quality ingredients. Grandmother always hydrated her sea cucumbers and there were tales of our great grandfather who owned a provincial store hence with unlimited supply of dried sea cucumber, naturally he got to enjoy sea cucumbers almost all his life.
I have never prepared dried sea cucumbers, and when I asked her if we could just purchase a dried one, she snapped, why get a dried one and all the extra work, when we are gifted clean ready to eat sea cucumbers? There’s a good point right there. Sea cucumbers are gifted as Chinese New Year gifts from others, usually in the form of dried or ready to cook. It is considered very auspicious food item to eat during the most auspicious day of the year in Chinese calendar. Since mother is Hakka, we have mostly Hakka dishes, including braised sea cucumbers and Buddha’s Delight (Luo Han Chay).
Sea cucumber is tasteless on its own. Its prized character is its unusual gelatinous texture that can be really awesome when cooked correctly. One of its peril is overcooking, because it turns mushy. The sea cucumber takes on all the other flavours best when braised with other ingredients, it will soak up all the juices and have combined flavours of everything.
This is the sea cucumber we had last Chinese New Year. It was given a couple of weeks before and stored in freezer.