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Sea Cucumber

Cooked Japanese sea cucumber in bowl

There are many varieties of sea cucumbers found or bred in many parts of the world. Sea cucumbers thrive in the ocean’s calm, shallow waters with rocky seabed and seaweed overgrowth. They feed mainly on small plants and animals such as foraminifera, gastropods, copepods, diatoms and other organic sediments. Similar to most animal species, sea cucumbers are dioecious and distinguishable by male and female sexes. Its reproductive period is from May to July, where eggs are spawned and hibernated among sea pebbles through the whole summer season.

Processed sea cucumbers are produced by drying fresh sea cucumbers over a given period of time, and contain extremely high nutritional values comparable to Chinese Ginseng. Hence, sea cucumbers are commonly called “Haishen” in Chinese, which translates to “Ginseng of the sea.”

Sea cucumbers are high in proteins, low in fat and free of cholesterol. Besides, it has kidney-tonifying, essence-replenishing, blood-nourishing, complexion-beautifying and anti-aging effects particularly beneficial for the physically weak. Sea cucumbers can be categorized into the following three main types:

• Prickly sea cucumber
• White teat sea cucumber
• Sandfish sea cucumber

Prickly Sea Cucumber (刺参)
This type of sea cucumber is mainly found in regions around Japan, Qingdao, the coastal Shandong province and China’s Liaoning province. Among these regions, Japan is best known to have produced the highest quality of such sea cucumber varieties.

Though the body size of Prickly Sea Cucumber may be small, its meat texture is usually thick & tender, and covered with a thin layer of dark brown outer skin with spike-shape extensions. Hence, Prickly Sea Cucumbers are also commonly called “Cì Shen” in Chinese. In Japan, such sea cucumbers are categorized based on their species and origin, with those from Hokkaido in Kanto & Kansai regarded the best among others.

Japanese Prickly Sea Cucumber is divided into:

KANTO Sea Cucumber (关东刺参)

Image of Kanto Japanese dried sea cucumber

Mainly produced in the Northeast and Kanto regions of Hokkaido, Japan. Owing to its geographic nature, water resource quality and climatic factors, the growth rate of these sea cucumbers is relatively slow. Nonetheless, these factors are precisely why the quality of these sea cucumbers are top notch. Its small body texture is thick and succulent, with smooth, luscious and tasty flavors well-liked by many. Generally, after being soaked in water, it can expand up to 6 times its original size, depending on various specifications and level of tenderness. 


KANSAI Sea Cucumber (关西刺参)

Image of Kansai Japanese dried sea cucumbers

Produced mainly in the Kansai region, they are cylindrical in shape and characterized by grayish black color. Its body length can grow to varying sizes and is sparsely scattered with spikes. It has a creamy delicious taste and its texture is soft and smooth. Kansai Sea Cucumber has a faint greenish color when soaked, which is a natural phenomenon in view of their growing environment and their large consumption of algae as staple food. In general, after being soaked in water, it can expand up to 4 times its original size, depending on various specifications and level of tenderness. 


White teat Sea Cucumber (猪婆参)

Image of white teat dried sea cucumbers

Mainly produced in Australia, Indonesia and Africa, their body surface is smooth and thorn-free, while its body color is a mixture of white and light yellowish color. Those with a smooth meat texture, fleshy and creamy rich flavor are considered as top grade quality. In general, after being soaked in water, it can expand up to 4 times its original size, depending on various specifications and level of tenderness.

Sandfish Sea Cucumber (禿参)

Image of sandfish dried sea cucumbers

Mainly produced in Australia and Africa, this breed of sea cucumber has a partially circular shape and a small body size. Their body is greyish without any conical spikes, and their meat texture is smooth, flesh and creamy. In terms of quality, Australia’s sea cucumber is normally preferred, followed by Africa’s sea cucumber.  


Since ancient times, sea cucumbers have been known as one of the “Seafood Bazhen” delicacies. It is cholesterol-free, high in protein, rich in mucopolysaccharides, selenium and polysaccharide Holothurin, and is known to provide nourishment for healthy body growth. The reason why sea cucumber is good for health, beauty, brain development, immunity and other tonic effects, is mainly because of its special nutrients and high protein content that result in easy body absorption, highlighting the similarity between sea cucumber collagen configuration and human skin collagen configuration. Besides, sea cucumber is also cholesterol free, making it an ideal beauty care product.

In addition, sea cucumber contains chondroitin sulfate, taurine, niacin and other nutrients that are extremely beneficial to the human body. It aids in the repair of cartilage damage, prevention and treatment of degenerative joint disease, promotes wound healing, regulates the nervous system, and aids in the rapid elimination of fatigue. Moreover, sea cucumbers are also rich in zinc, selenium, iron, etc, providing a large number of micronutrients which can help to regulate endocrine function, balance ‘yin’ and ‘yang’, and enhance overall immunity.


  • Sweet flavor, salty, mild natured, & non-toxic


Sea cucumber invigorates vital energy, reinforces inner strength and nourishes organs, relieves inner heat from body organs, and has anti-aging properties. They have the ability to treat deficiency syndromes such as lung asthenia and cough, and aid in stretch marks reduction for ladies after birth. In addition, it can also invigorate the kidneys, nourish hair and enhance immunity against radiation.


《BenCao CongXīn (本草从新)(New Materia Medica)》Invigorates the kidneys, aids in treatment of impotence
《Yao XingKao (药性考)(Herbal Test)》Revitalizes kidneys & reduces heatiness, improves bowel movement and reduces water retention


Hydrated/Soaked sea cucumber contains water content 76%, Protein 21.5%, Fat 0.3%, Carbohydrate 1%, Ash 1.1%, Calcium 118mg, Phosphorus 22mg, Iron 1.4mg

Source: Dictionary of Traditional Chinese Medicine


  1. Soak the dry sea cucumber in a clean and oil-free pot. Pour in water until the sea cucumber is fully immersed. It is recommended to place the pot in the cooler compartment of the refrigerator and soak for about 2 days (depending on size), and it is advised to change the water once a day.

  2. After cleaning the sea cucumber, put it in a pot with boiling water and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat* and let it cool naturally. Pour away the water and rinse the sea cucumber with clean water. Use a small knife to slice the abdomen and slice along the inner wall of the intestines to remove impurities, and rinse thoroughly. (If sea cucumbers are still hard, repeat step 2 until they reach the right level of tenderness.)

  3. Place the cleansed sea cucumbers with some water in a container box and keep the expanded sea cucumber in the freezer for long term storage.

  4. To serve, thaw the frozen sea cucumber first before cooking.

*To adjust boiled time for different grades of sea cucumber

Reference For The Soaking Process Of Dried Sea Cucumber

Japan prickly Sea-cucumber (日本刺参)
Steps 1 and Step 2: Place in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool down naturally. Pour away water, rinse sea cucumber with clean water, use a small knife to slice the abdomen where spikes are more sparse and remove sandy impurities. It is advised to retain the ribs (intestines) which are rather nutritious. Drain and rinse thoroughly, repeat the above steps 1 or 2 times until sea cucumber has reached the right level of tenderness for consumption. (Note: Ribs/intestines could also be reserved separately for boiling soup. Removal of ribs/intestines from sea cucumber will cause the sea cucumber to expand slightly bigger.)

White Teat Sea cucumber (猪婆参)
Step 1: To soak for about three days

Step 2: To repeat 1 or 2 times until sea cucumber has reached the right level of tenderness for consumption.

Sand Fish Sea-cucumber (禿参)
Step 1: To soak for about three days

Step 2: To repeat 1 or 2 times until sea cucumber has reached the right level of tenderness for consumption.

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