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What We Need are More Chinese People

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Jun 08, 2009 at 12:00:00 PM PDT


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Today (World Oceans Day), Grist has an article up about the rise in jellyfish, a problem for both fishermen and swimmers. The article postulates that the increase is due to both overfishing and climate change. As we make the oceans less hospitable for a number of species - and overfish many other species - the jellyfish have less predators and less competition for resources. The author calls them the "cockroaches of the sea."

I've got a simple solution to this problem: more Chinese people.  

Jill Richardson :: What We Need are More Chinese People
The Chinese eat jellyfish! While it may not be a staple on western menus, if you find an authentic enough Chinese restaurant, you can almost certainly order the "haizhe" (pronounced like the words "high" and "jug" together - without the G on jug).

When I lived in China, my professor (a native of Shandong province, where Tsingtao beer is made), invited our class to lunch and proceeded to order her "favorite" food from her province's cuisine. (What we call "Chinese food" is actually several distinct culinary styles, each from a different part of China.) The dish came to the table and we all eagerly awaited this "favorite" dish. We had no idea what it was, as we'd only had one year's worth of Chinese language instruction and the word "haizhe" had never been among our vocabulary words.

When the spaghetti-looking dish arrived at the table, we were faced with a common problem of Westerners in China... Do I eat first or ask first? If I eat it first and then ask, I might be rather upset once I find out what I ate. If I ask first, then I'll still have to go through with eating it, knowing what it is. I grabbed a helping of "haizhe" with my chopsticks and, holding it in front of my mouth, said "Zhi shi shenme?" ("What is this?")

I was answered with a long pause, and I put the haizhe in my mouth. Mmm, tasty! It was actually pretty good. It had a flavor that the Chinese describe as "suan" (pronounced "swan" like the animal), which they translate as "sour" although I would argue that it's a poor translation and English has no true equivalent for the flavor. Then my professor said, "How to say in English...? Jellyfish?" Great. I just ate a jellyfish? I'm not sure I would have willingly done so if she'd answered me quicker. I flipped through my Chinese-English dictionary, hoping it would tell me that "haizhe" meant something other than jellyfish... but it didn't. My professor's English wasn't great, but she sure knew the right word for her favorite food! But, like I said, it actually tasted great!

On a more serious note, obviously this is a problem we can't eat our way out of. Grist recommends using policy to build back our marine ecosystems, suggesting California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) as a model. I think curbing climate change is a must too, because no matter how much we cut back on fishing, we'll still manage to kill the fish if the water's too warm and too acidic.

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I love jellyfish! (4.00 / 3)
There used to be (and still might be) a Taiwanese place called Funky Broome on the edge of Manhattan's Chinatown that used to serve this delicious jellyfish appetizer. It was like jellyfish ceviche in that it was "cooked" in an acid. I ordered it just about every time I went.

My Cantonese-speaking friend talked about a different quality for jellyfish that I can't remember the Cantonese name for. Translated into English, it would be something like crunch, except it's an outer firmness with an inner softness that kind of bursts in your mouth. Salmon roe would also get that kind of descriptor as would grapes and maybe even things like that gross gum with the goo inside.

Does that description ring any bells with you, Jill?

But anyway, I don't think a huge increase in Chinese people would really solve the problem. :)

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost


BTW, wil... (4.00 / 4)
We had wood sorrel and lambs' quarters salad last night. Thank you so much for lifting the veil from eyes that were throwing away delicious food for so long.

Yankee Frugality: use it up, wear it out, make it last, or do without.

[ Parent ]
I'm very glad you tried them and liked them! (4.00 / 1)
That's a mighty fine combo between the mildness of lamb's quarters and the sour jolt of wood sorrel. You could have thrown in a little minced field garlic for a some onion action, too. (And or some garlic mustard for their garlicky kick.)

It never ceases to be a thrill for me when I discover that a plant that I'd never paid any attention to or considered a nuisance is yummy.

Eat up those lamb's quarters. They're something in the vicinity of 4x more nutritious than spinach. And yummy. And free!



I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost


[ Parent ]
The upshot is I've stopped "weeding" them. (4.00 / 3)
Is garlic mustard on one of your diaries?

Jeebus, I desperately need your flip-book of free food, complete with pictures for idjits.

Yankee Frugality: use it up, wear it out, make it last, or do without.


[ Parent ]
It's in the very first one (4.00 / 1)
linky

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost


[ Parent ]
Oh, and I got so curious about the word (4.00 / 1)
I was thinking of that I wrote to my friend.

It's cuì (pronounced something like soy)

She gave me the character, too, but it won't cut and paste.

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost


[ Parent ]
Cool. What a bonanza! (4.00 / 3)
Between a few more Chinese people, a great marketing campaign, and a good distribution network, it shouldn't take too long before we strip the oceans of jellyfish too. No more worries about those nasty stings while swimming at the beach.

So what's left? Anybody up for krill pancakes?

Yankee Frugality: use it up, wear it out, make it last, or do without.


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