Japanese Konowata, or sea cucumber guts are a delicacy in the Orient. In the west we haven’t habits to eat bitter foods or foods that sting our mouth or leave lingering after tastes. The salted intestines of a Sea Cucumber is one of my favorite appetizers to enjoy with a cold glass of sake.

The sea cucumbers are first kept in clean seawater to empty the intestines, then they are carefully removed by hand to make sure the viscera does not break and the intestines are kept intact.  These intestines are then cleaned with saltwater, and prepared through a multistage salting process that takes a lot of time and patience.  It has an intense salty ocean flavor, almost like licking moist seaweed growing on jagged rocks by the shore. To reproduce, sea cucumbers shoot eggs and sperm out into the water and hope that there are enough chance meetings for fertilization to occur.  When threatened, sea cucumbers violently contract their muscles and eject sticky threads and internal organs out of their rear to ensnare their enemies.  Amazingly, even after ejecting their organs, they can regenerate these body parts within a day.

Another wonderful sea cucumber delicacy is konoko, which are, dried sea cucumber ovaries extracted, salted and dried in the sun.  They can be extracted through a small incision/cut that will heal in about a week, and both the ovaries and the intestines will automatically regenerate.  The best way to enjoy this delicacy is to lightly toast it over a flame and shred it by hand. The toasting awakens the deep ocean flavors and releases the intense fragrances.  As you chew the konoko pieces, the flavors become more complex.

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