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The Hazards of Jellyfish On Your Plate

By: Sheila J. Vaughen

Date Posted: 2000-11-23

How in the world does a person eat a jellyfish? With hot mustard, of course. It’s a question that was posed and answered for me recently while dining at the Chinese Restaurant Karin that is part of the Manza Beach Hotel. I was forced to ponder this mystery because of my husband’s insistence that we try this “delicacy” with our celebratory dinner that highlighted our fifth anniversary.

I must emphasize that I did not put any part of the slivered, still translucent, blubbery flesh into my mouth. One can only imagine my amazement when my husband, who does not even eat sushi as I do, chewed up several morsels that were brought as an appetizer by our acquiescent waiter. Now wouldn’t the site of fresh jellyfish, cooked al dente and seasoned just right, make anyone’s mouth water for more?

Actually, it was only because I apparently won a verbal tussle between my husband and I, that we did not receive a whole plate of the stuff prior to our five-course dinner. “Look here,” he said, “jellyfish, for ¥3000. Let’s try it!”
My face surely displayed my shock, “No! Are you nuts?”
“Have you ever had it?”
“What? You must be kidding.”
He turned to the waiter, “We’ll have the jellyfish please.”
“No we won’t. What is wrong with you?
After going on like that for a bit, the waiter realized he should not bring the whole platter. He did however, kindly add a sample to our appetizer plate so the mad American man could try it. This gesture, along with the patience he displayed throughout our alternating bantering and giggling, was a tribute to his skill as a waiter.

Regardless, I remain perplexed as to what would make a man who greatly prefers filet mignon over filet of fish, try such a thing. Could it have been our elegant surroundings and the excitement of the day’s events? Might it have been the lingering effect of the champagne that marked the renewal of our wedding vows earlier that day? Was it perhaps the fault of the second carafe of sake he was enjoying along with his (yummy) jellyfish dish. I still do not know.

The dinner for two that we ordered, without disagreement, was good and featured a couple of different shrimp dishes, a delicious beef and mushroom dish and other items. I did however, face one other dilemma when I realized that all the complete dinner sets included the infamous shark fin soup.

I was reluctant to eat this for a few reasons. First to mind was something I had heard as a youth; that you shouldn’t eat shark because it could have feasibly consumed a human, which would then make the person who ate the shark a…uh, never mind.

Second, several varieties of shark are becoming seriously threatened due to the huge Asian taste for this delicacy. Lastly, it is an Asian delicacy because of its rumored aphrodisiac powers. Given the fact that I was on a second honeymoon of sorts, with my wild-eyed, hydroid-eating man, I didn’t think that would be necessary, and could possibly even be dangerous.

I did in the end give in, and spooned up my shark fin soup like everyone else in the restaurant. I heard from my husband that it had a familiar taste to him. He kept referring to it as some kind of strange burnt taste. He said it tasted a lot like the jellyfish. Thanks.

We were able to enjoy this unusual experience because of our desire to do something special for our fifth anniversary. I was familiar with the Manza Beach Hotel from my time serving as an English teacher for staff members during the hotel’s preparation for the G8 Summit. The amenity-rich resort, owned by All Nippon Airways, was chosen by the US delegation to host President Clinton who brought along his world-famous daughter, Chelsea.

The resort truly has much to offer its guests. The hotel sits at the end of a narrow peninsula in the middle of a bay, and faces the popular tourist destination, Manzamo Point. The resort offers numerous marine activities including a submarine from which to view ocean life. Guests are invited when they check in to select one of five restaurants at which to dine that evening. I imagine all would be as memorable as the one we chose.

While the furnishings and décor of the hotel do not give an impression of newness or pricey opulence, the expansive grounds, perfect for romantic strolls, and the variety of leisure activities more than compensate. Our room on the top floor overlooking the bay was just what I had hoped for.

One interesting feature of our room was in the rather small bathroom. With its automatic tush-warmer and two bidet options, the toilet had an intriguing number of buttons and features that were explained with humorous diagrams. As mentioned, the bathroom was small; but on the positive side, it was stocked with several complementary Shiseido bath products.

Our stay at the resort was great overall and something I would recommend. There was just one other interesting event that night at the restaurant. I still remember how gleeful he looked with the offensive strips of jellyfish dangling from his chopsticks as they moved closer to his face. I remember too that he displayed an encouraging smile as I popped some sliced black thing into my mouth that I assumed to be a Chinese mushroom.

“You know what you just ate?” he grinned. Wide-eyed, I shook my head as I hurriedly swallowed the thing before the taste had time to settle on my tongue.

“That was very old egg. I think they call it hundred-day-old egg or something,” he explained with a smirk. While I still consider myself an open-minded eater, it took all my willpower to keep down what I had just ingested, and then to pretend it had not actually happened.

“Thanks a lot for telling me, HON-ey,” I glared.

“Waiter, more boiled jellyfish for my husband please,” I requested sweetly, trying to inflect my English with a Japanese accent (so he would better understand of course).

“And hold the mustard, he’ll have it plain.”

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