Every year Israelis take refuge from the sweltering summer heat in the cool
waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and almost every year, swarms of jellyfish
whose tentacles pack a painful – though rarely lethal – sting show up to spoil
To the dismay of would-be bathers, forced to stay on dry land,
this season’s blooms have already periodically blanketed the country’s coast.
Now, some Israelis are proposing a curious new way of fighting the jellyfish
invasion: Eating them.
“The time for revenge has come!” declared Gal in a
recipe for fried jellyfish with water chestnuts and mushrooms he posted on his
Ptitim food blog.
“I made a meal of one of the most hated creatures of
the summer – because there’s no way I’m going to cook a mosquito or a French
Gal, who preferred not to provide his surname, said his recipe
went online this time last year but that it recently regained popularity on
Facebook –about the same time that the jellyfish reappeared on Israel’s coasts–
receiving over 1,500 “likes.”
“It was hot and humid and the jellyfish
arrived,” he said via phone last week, explaining his inspiration for the
unusual gelatinous dish. “I cook seasonal and local foods and this posed a
particular culinary challenge. So I did a little reading and learned how to cook
Preparing a jellyfish is a laborious and potentially dangerous
process if done incorrectly.
Gal harvested a few specimens in good
condition from a beach near his house using thick rubber gloves and took them to
his kitchen. There, he separated the bells from the venomous tentacles and
washed them in hot and cold water several times, cleaning them of sand and
bacteria. He then diced the rubbery remains into thin strips and tried them
Revenge may be sweet in theory but in practice the slices turned out
to be too rubbery, so he further marinated the morsels in rice vinegar and soy
sauce and fried them for a more satisfactory result, though this was still far
“It was a great experience, but they are tasteless,”
concluded Gal, who said he will not be trying the dish again soon.
like eating flip-flops.”
Jellyfish are a relative newcomer to the
They arrived from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal when it
opened in the late 19th century and have since spread far and wide, from the
Nile Delta to the Strait of Gibraltar. The most common type of jellyfish in this
part of the world is Rhopilema nomadica, an evolutionary primitive white blob of
water and little protein.
Because jellyfish are comparitively new to the
region they are ignored by Mediterranean cuisines, which otherwise make a feast
of almost any edible creature including snails and barnacles. Some crafty
Israeli salesmen are said to have looked into exporting the superfluous catch to
Japan, where they are commonly consumed, but the Japanese would not
Apparently, they prefer a local Asian variety over the
In Israel, the market for the oldest form of
multi-organ animals as a food is limited because, lacking fins and scales, they
are not kosher. Still, a few bold attempts to introduce jellyfish into the
Israeli diet have been made. Carpaccio Bar, a restaurant in Tel Aviv, started
importing dried jellyfish from Japan in 2009 and served them to patrons for two
“A regular customer who worked in Japan told us it was easy to
bring it to Israel,” said Yotam Doktor, one of the restaurant’s co-owners. “The
Carpaccio Bar specializes in raw foods so we thought it was worth
Some clients came especially to try the exotic dish but
eventually it did not catch on and was removed from the menu this year. “It just
isn’t tasty,” said Doktor.
He remembers one unfortunate occasion where
complications of having the rare dish on his menu left him feeling a bit stung.
“A regular came to the restaurant especially to try our jellyfish, but we had
just run out,” he recalled.
So Doktor and two co-owners spread out along
the Mediterranean coast hoping to come back with a bounty of the usually
ubiquitous creatures, but, much to their chagrin, they came back empty
“It was the peak season, the middle of August,” an exasperated
Doktor said, “and there wasn’t a jellyfish in sight.”