Sea Cucumber. It’s an aphrodisiac. It has beauty benefits. Sounds so promising, but I must admit, the idea of eating a gelatinous, phallic-shaped sea creature made me feel a little, well… shy.
I had never eaten sea cucumber, but I have seen one live, just fresh out the ocean. I was on a sailboat not far off the shore of Kaanapali beach in Maui. The handsome Hawaiian diving instructor emerged from underwater with a sea cucumber in his hands, squirting it toward me, laughing. The sea cucumber looked like a large penis, definitely too large a size for a human’s, and well… it doesn’t really look like a human penis. Well, sort of. I mean, it’s similar in some ways. But definitely not as pretty and definitely not bumpy and wildly colored. I hope not. That would be left up to the adult toy manufacturers to design them in that colorful and textured way. But at a distance— and the diving instructor was at a fair distance when he squirted it playfully at me— with the water squirting out of the center of it, there was no denying its likeness. In my surprise, I realized that this phallic thing that was squirting water was something from under the sea. A creature similar to the starfish, the sea cucumber is slippery and slimy like a large slug. I was soon laughing too, at the image of this big phallic thing squirting water into the air. What a symbol of male yang energy! You know exactly what I mean.
I suppose because of its shape it has been considered an aphrodisiac, but what interests me more is what happened to me the other night after I had eaten sea cucumber.
It was a beautiful warm August evening. We craved Chinese Xiao Long Bao dumplings. Driving through the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, there are many dumpling houses, noodle shops, hot pot restaurants, and boba shops. We explored the late night possibilities until we found one quaint little Chinese café. Among the many exotic choices on their menu, like alligator, which was not available, was a dish we chose that had large amounts of sea cucumber.
The dish was a saucy bowl of fish maw, or swim bladder, which is similar to lungs and controls the buoyancy in ray-finned fish, black mushrooms, which I absolutely love even though the waiter mentioned many do not like it, some kind celery-like greens, imitation abalone, and plentiful amounts of sea cucumber. And guess what? I really liked it. Sea cucumber was lighter than a mushroom, a bit spongy, and quite delicious.
Sea cucumber is known in French as bêcher-de-mer, which makes it sound so lovely, and sexy, and très French. In Chinese, the sea cucumber is called Hai Sen or sea ginseng for its strong yang quality, which is very masculine. The Chinese consider it an aphrodisiac due to its rich in iron and minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc.
So is sea cucumber an aphrodisiac? Possibly. But what I discovered was, even though I was out until the wee hours of the night eating sea cucumber at an authentic Chinese restaurant, I awoke to find my skin looking plump with a youthful glow. I looked well rested, younger. Wow. Was it the sea cucumber? I give you a confident YES. Did it have an aphrodisiac effect? Perhaps. The perfect combination of eating a sea cucumber dish with your lover is a recipe for beauty and romance. You will radiate from the afterglow of both love and food.
Sea cucumber it is a curious creature. It’s an echinoderm that creates collagen. Its unique feature is that is can morph itself in shape and adapt. It contains amino acids— the building blocks of collagen and elastin— and it is plentiful in mucopolysaccharides. This means it helps you plump up and get juicy. Anti-aging and pro-libido. You just might get over the jelly-like texture and eat some sea cucumber for that, right?
In the imperial courts of China, great beauties and women such as the empress prized sea cucumbers for their skin-beautifying recipes as well as for their appetites during the banquet and the bedroom. Among such exotic things as bird’s nest and shark fin during Chinese banquets, sea cucumber was by far the most effective for health and beauty, and um, ahem. Libido. Perhaps its high levels of zinc have much to do with the effect it has, but as a passionate woman let me tell you, menopause has no damper upon my desire. And now that I’ve discovered sea cucumber… well let’s just say I’ll be having more of it.