Jellyfish and Spiced Beef Appetizer

Jellyfish and Spiced Beef Appetizer at May Garden in Bedford, N.S.

The dish pictured above was served, rather unusually, as a Dim Sum item at the The pairing of Jellyfish and Sliced Beef is not uncommon, by any means, but they usually appear together as Cold Plate items at the beginning of a Chinese Dinner, rather than on Dim Sum menus. Still, it made a pleasant and novel addition to the usual fare, and it turned out to be very good indeed.

The dish appeared on the menu, in English, as ‘Jellyfish with Sliced Beef in Hot Sauce’, which was a little ambiguous. It rather suggest that the two ingredients were served as mixed dish in the same sauce but, as you can see, they were separated on the plate and the dressings, though similar, were slightly different.

The Jellyfish

As I have mentioned elsewhere, Jellyfish is enjoyed in Chinese cuisine primarily for its texture, as it has very little flavor of its own. The texture of shredded Jellyfish Medusa (which is most commonly eaten raw, but sometimes cooked) is not very easy to describe. Comparisons with ‘rubber bands’ are common but inaccurate, and they probably best likened to Chinese Cloud Ear Fungus. If you haven’t tried that, then possibly you might find the thick skin of Knackwurst to be somewhat similar.

In any event, the reconstituted shreds in this dish were quite plump and had a nice al dente bite to them. The dressing was primarily Sesame Oil, with perhaps a tiny splash of say sauce, and it contained a little sliced scallion and finely chopped fresh Chili. My sister, who was trying Jellyfish for the first time, wasn’t overly impressed on the first taste, but decided she liked it after eating a little more. I liked it very much and would say it might well be the best Jellyfish Salad I have had.

The Sliced Beef

The Chinese character menu entry for the Jellyfish and Spiced Beef at May Garden was 海蜇牛腱, which was a bit curious. I remember remarking that the slices of Beef were probably from the shin as they had the appearance of that cut after ‘red-cooking’, particularly with the small circles of translucent tendon scattered through the meat. I didn’t recognize the last character in the name and it was only after I got home and looked it up that I discovered that it means ‘Tendon’ (and Beef Tendon in particular, with the ‘Cow’ character appearing immediately before it.)

Well, clearly, despite the small amount of tendon in the meat, the dish was obviously flesh, not tendon, and it is a bit of a mystery why the dish was described that way in Chinese. Still, the beef slices themselves were very tasty, if perhaps just a tiny bit dry), and the combination of raw chopped garlic and chili in a light oil was excellent. Either the Jellyfish or the Beef alone would have made a nice appetizer, or Dim Sum offering, but the pairing here worked really well.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!