To prepare the sea cucumber after it is collected, the internal organs are removed, and dirt and sand are washed out of the cavity. It is then boiled in salty water and dried in the air to preserve it. When readied for use in making food, it is softened in warm water and then boiled. Like tofu, sea cucumber is flavorless, but has the ability to soak up the flavors of foods and seasonings it is cooked with. I made the following recipe while I was in China but you can just prepare it like I mentioned and use it in a soup or a stir-fry.
The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea Gambolling Around the Arhat
1. Cooked Chicken breast 300g
2. Soaked shark fin 100g
3. Sea cucumber 100g
4. Abalone 100g
5. Fishbone 100g*
6. Fish maw 100g**
7. Shrimp 100g
8. Ham 100g
9. Asparagus 50g
10. Fish meat (white fish, preferably Chinese white croaker) 250g
11. Cooking wine 50g
12. Some chicken broth, some ginger, leaves of greens, and some cooked lard.
Note: The ingredients must be laid out separately in a pot or dish in eight sections. The chicken representing Arhat is placed in the center, and covered with slices of ham, ginger, and greens).
1. Mince half (150 g) of the chicken breast into a fine paste. Use part of the paste to lay out on the bottom of a pot or dish to form Arhat's cushion. Cut the rest of the chicken into bars.
2. Cut the white fish into bars and sandwich the fishbone in each.
3. Arrange the shrimps in a ring.
4. Form the shape of chrysanthemum with the shark fin and the chicken paste.
5. Shape the sea cucumbers like butterflies.
6. Pick out eight pieces of asparagus.
7. Arrange all the ingredients in the pot as described above.
7. Season the materials above with salt, MSG (if desired), and Shao Xing Chew (a cooking wine) and steam.
8. Pour hot chicken broth and hot lard over the ingredients and serve hot.
*Fish bone is a kind of fish glue abstracted from fishbones and scales of sharks or croakers by braising. In fact, it is a clear jelly.
** Fish maw is the air-bladder of certain types of fish. It must be soaked in water before being cooked.