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Sea cucumbers are marine animals of the class Holothuroidea that are used in fresh or dried form in various cuisines. The creature and the food product is commonly known as bêche-de-mer (lit. "sea-spade") in the French language, trepang (or trīpang) in Malay, namako in Japanese and in the Philippines it is called balatan.

Most cultures in East and Southeast Asia regard sea cucumbers as a delicacy. There are a number of dishes made with sea cucumber as this ingredient is expected to have a strong cultural emphasis on health. In most dishes, the sea cucumber has a slippery texture. Common ingredients that go with sea cucumber dishes include winter melon, dried scallop, kai-lan, Shiitake mushroom, and Chinese cabbage.


Sea cucumbers destined for food is traditionally harvested by hand on small watercraft; a process known as trepanging.It is dried for preservation purposes and has to be rehydrated by boiling and soaking in water for several days for the sea cucumber to absorb the liquid back. It is mainly used as an ingredient in soup or stew.

There are many of commercially important species of sea cucumber that are harvested and dried for export for use in Chinese cuisine as Hoi sam. Some of the more commonly found species in markets include:

The state of Western Australiamarker has sea cucumber fisheries from Exmouth to the border of the Northern Territory, almost all of the catch is sandfish (Holothuria scabra). The fishing of the various species known as Bêche-de-mer is regulated by state and federal legislation. Five other species are targeted in the state's Bêche-de-mer harvest, these are Holothuria noblis (white teatfish); Holothuria whitmaei (black teatfish); Thelenota ananas (prickly redfish); Actinopyga echninitis (deep-water redfish); and Holothuria atra (lolly fish).

The largest American species is Holothuria floridana, which abounds just below low-water mark on the Floridamarker reefs. There are plans to harvest this species for the sea cucumber market.


The trade in Trepang, between Macassans seafarers and the aborigines of Arnhem Land, to supply the markets of Southern China is the first recorded example of trade between the inhabitants of the Australian continent and their Asian neighbours

The Asian market for sea cucumber is estimated to be US$60 million. The dried form account for 95% of the sea cucumber traded annually in Chinamarker, Hong Kongmarker, Singaporemarker, Taiwanmarker, Malaysiamarker, Koreamarker, and Japanmarker and are typically used in Chinese cuisines. The biggest re-exporter in the trade is Chinamarker, Hong Kongmarker, and Singaporemarker. There are also 650 species of sea cucumbers, of which just 10 species have commercial value


There is a fresh form and there is a dried form. Both the fresh and dried form are used for cooking. Individually the dried is also used for traditional Chinese medicine as a tasty restorative.

See also


  1. Huang, Yao-Wen. Liu KeShun. Wang, Catharina Yung-Kang. Ang. [1999] (1999). ISBN 1566767369

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