sea cucumber

A marine animal whose name comes from its cucumberlike shape. It has short tentacles at one end. It's also known as sea slug. Though it is seldom found fresh in the United States, it's sold dried (usually marketed as trepang, iriko or bêche-de-mer) in Asian markets. It must be soaked in water for at least 24 hours, during which time it doubles in size and takes on a gelatinous quality. Its texture is rather rubbery and it's therefore most often used in soups.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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