Sea slug recipes
See also: Stylocheilus as food.
October 25, 2005
From: Calvin Patterson
My son is completing a project on the Kwakiutl Indians of the Pacific Northwest from the 1800's.
We have learned that the sea slugs were common in the Kwakiutl diet. Can you help me know the specific types of sea slugs in this area?
firstname.lastname@example.orgCalvin Patterson, 2005 (Oct 25) Edible Sea Slugs near Vancouver, Canada. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/15103
For a list of opisthobranchs from that part of the world try searches for canada and washington on the Forum and you will get a list of opisthobranchs we have on the Forum from the NE Pacific. You could also look at Dave Behrens' book Pacific Coast Nudibranchs.
If you go to the Sea Slug Recipes Fact Sheet and look at the July 1998 correspondence you will see a link to a webpage where the cooking mehtods of the Kwakiutl Indians is described. The general opinion was that they were probably eating a Sea Cucumber rather than a true sea slug. The only sea slug I know that is reported to have been eaten by Nth Pacific peoples is Tochuina tetraqueta, which is reported to have been eaten in the Kuril Islands but I can't find a reference.
October 14, 2005
From: Richard Jemison
After accidentally catching a strange creature on a fishing trip recently in Australia I decided to at least try and identify the animal it was a large sea hare, it was safely returned to the water after a large ink secretion that the kids and I found very interesting.
My question is this: after living in China for the last three years the event in Australia brought home to me that some of the Asian countries I have visited have sea slugs on the menu in many restauraunts. Am I confused or is this actually the case? Sea cucumbers and other deep marine bottom dwellers are definitely every day fare here, but are these animals really edible? (by the way they are not called a slug or a hare on the menu)
email@example.comJemison, R., 2005 (Oct 14) On the Menu. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/15009
This is mainly a question of nomenclature. Sea Slugs to the purist, refer solely to "marine snails which have either lost their shells or are in the evolutionary process of doing so". However 'slug' has a wider meaning in the community. For example, holothurians [sea cucumbers, beche de mer, etc.], which are considered a delicacy in Asia and parts of the Pacific, are also called 'sea slugs', which rather confuses the issue.
Unfortunately, you will see from earlier messages on the Sea Slug recipes page that 'true' sea slugs on the whole are not very palatable.
February 24, 2003
From: Malcolm Whittaker
I was unable to locate the Recipes Page of your site. Please direct me to the appropriate area. I hear seaslugs are good eating.
There are two easy ways to find specific topics on the Forum - either go to the General Topics Index or conduct a Search. Both these are accessible from the Navigation Bar at top and bottom of each page.
Unfortunately, you will see from earlier messages on that page that sea slugs on the whole are not very palatable. However holothurians [sea cucumbers, beche de mer, etc.], which are considered a delicacy in Asia and parts of the Pacific, are sometimes called 'sea slugs', which rather confuses the issue.
September 12, 2002
From: Nishina Masayoshi
Concerning sea slugs being edible. It seems that sea slug such as Aplysia kurodai have eaten for many years in some parts of Japan such as Tottori Prefecture, Japan Sea and Fukushina Prefecture, on the Pacific coast but not as a staple food. I tried to find more detail and seems they boil and seasonit. It tastes like octopus. I think A. kurodai usually eats non-poisonous green algae so it is safe as food. Nudibranchs which eat sponges, ascidians and hydroids may be dangerous for food.
firstname.lastname@example.orgMasayoshi, N., 2002 (Sep 12) RE: Are slugs edible? . [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/7822
It would be interesting to know if they eat all the Sea Hare or just the body wall. Do they clean out all the digestive gland and gut etc before it is prepared for eating?
August 15, 2002
From: Susan Holzer
I was just wondering if slugs were edible? This my seem like a weird question but my mom and step dad have a bet going. And I have looked everywhere on the internet and can't seem to find the answer. If you can help me out on this it would be great. Thanks,
email@example.comHolzer, S., 2002 (Aug 15) Are slugs edible?. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/7782
I have different answers depending on what you mean by 'slugs'. I hope the bet isn't too serious as I would hate to cause a major domestic dispute between your mom and step dad.
'True' sea slugs are molluscs - in fact specialised snails. If you have a look at the earlier messages on the Recipes Page you will find that very few have ever been considered edible, and many are probably poisonous. Have a look at the message from a vet in Western Australia about dogs dying after eating sea slugs stranded on the beach.
However there is another group of animals which are also called 'sea slugs'. These are variously called sea cucumbers, holothurians, beche de mer, trepang, etc. These are definitely edible. The 'skin' is dried, and form a major fishery in Asia and parts of the Pacific.
If you are talking about land slugs, as far as I know they have never been eaten as a normal food, unlike some land snails. However I have heard of a young man who died after swallowing a slug alive for a bet with his drinking mates. It wasn't the slug as such that killed him but the parasitic rat lungworms that it was infested with.
So depending on how you define a 'slug', the answer to your question is yes and no.
September 24, 1999
From: Paul Delon
Does anyone know any folklore or myths that deal with seaslugs? How about use, were their any traditional uses for the seaslug, either in ritual, as a source of food or medicine, or any other historical interest?
firstname.lastname@example.orgDelon, P., 1999 (Sep 24) Slugs in Folklore. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/1367
The only information we seem to have collected is a very little on sea slugs as food. Have a look at the messages below yours, on the Recipes?? page, and the links there to information on the sea hares Stylocheilus and Dolabella. If you do stumble on any further information, could you let us know?
June 24, 1999
From: Nick Robertson
My name is Nick Robertson and I am an intern with Aqua Magazine, based in Carpinteria, California. I am researching the possible practice of harvesting and cooking sea slugs for consumption for the magazine's Blue Plate Special section (seafood not for the squeamish). Your website was very informative for discovering more about the sea slug itself, and shone some light on the impractical aspects of eating them, but I would like to know if there are any sea slugs that can be used as food - are the gentle creatures still eaten today, and if so, where and how? If you have any information about this matter, I would be greatly appreciative if you could drop me a line and fill me in.
Thank you in advance.
email@example.comRobertson, N., 1999 (Jun 24) Are Sea Slugs used as food?. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/975
As you will have seen on the site, nasty chemicals in the skin deter most animals from eating opisthobranchs. Have a look at the Recipe page where there is some discussion on Tochuina in the North Pacific and the confusion with holothurians. The only information I have on current use of sea slugs as food is the Sea Hare Dolabella auricularia. Have a look at Veikila Vuki's message from Fiji where both the egg mass and the animal are eaten. She even gives a recipe for the animal. Look also at the other messages from Fiji.
If you find any other recipes from elsewhere in the world I would be interested in hearing about them. And let your readers know about the Sea Slug Forum.
November 6, 1998
From: Brian Penney
About the sea slug recipes...it does indeed sound as if the posted recipe is for a holothurian, specifically because of the method of preparation- e.g. most slugs don't have a 'neck', etc. The addition of dirt is interesting, not just because it prevents boiling over, but it also could serve as some kind of absorbent for toxic compounds. (Holothurians have their share as well)
However, I have seen a reference to Tochuina tetraquetra(Dendronotacea)being eaten by Pacific natives (Behrens, 1991). I keep trying to find a recipe, but no one else seems to have heard of it.
(PS- not really for posting, but because you said you were interested in who was responding. I am a PhD student with Dr. Richard Palmer at University of Alberta, studying the evolution of feeding specificity in dorid nudibranchs. My background is in chemical ecology (insect/plant) interactions, and I became fascinated by nudibranchs partially because I suspect the same sort of interactions are occurring with them! Nicely done on the slug forum, btw. I especially like the backgorund photo of Glaucus)
Brian K. Penney
Bamfield Marine Station
Bamfield, BC V0R 1B0 CANADA
firstname.lastname@example.orgPenney, B., 1998 (Nov 6) Sea Slug recipes. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/291
Dear Brian, I hope you don't mind me posting your "details". Hopefully it will encourage others to follow suit. As you mention, I would like more participants to let us know something about them - not Monica Lewinsky detail - but enough to make replies and responses relevant. Some queries I get don't even indicate which part of the world they are from which makes relevant answers impossible. Thanks for the Dave Behrens reference to Tochuina. I'll see if he can give us details.
Your research field is very interesting to me as when I first started looking at colour in chromodorid nudibranchs in Tanzania it was to insects I turned for ideas. A colleague in Dar es Salaam, David Smith, was studying mimicry and population genetics in Danaid butterflies and their mimics / models such as Hypolimnas. He was working with leading researchers in the field such as Miriam Rothschild, and it didn't take much of an intuitive leap to realise my beasts were probably doing much the same thing. Its just so much easier with insects to test theories than with nudibranchs I'm afraid.
It would be good if you could send us some information or ideas on your work either as 'in progress' or when you finish.
Glad you like Glaucus. I had been thinking of posting some pics of Glaucus and Glaucilla. Perhaps your message will be catalyst enough.
October 22, 1998
Thanks for your reply. I too regarded the "real" sea slugs as definitely unpalatable, nor edible, but I was unaware of the reference of sea cucmbers to sea slugs, of which the former is a common cooking ingredient in my country. Your webpage has proved to be enlightening.
(Dorothy aka BabyMaiZe)
October 21, 1998
I am a college student in Singapore and am doing a project on exotic foods and delicacies. I have discovered that people in China eat many kinds of seafood, including sea slugs, and I'd like to know if you are aware of that, and if you know the rationale behind it. Please do reply soon. Thank You!
I suspect the "sea slugs" being eaten are not opisthobranchs, which are true sea slugs, but are probably sea cucumbers or holothurians whose dried skins are used in Asian cooking and are called trepang and beche de mer. You ask the rationale behind eating them? That is like asking the meaning of life! Humans eat because they get hungry, and I am sure around the world they have tried most commonly available potential "foods" to see whether they are edible.
For information on sea cucumbers and why sea slugs aren't very edible, have a look at the other messages and comments on this page and go to the General Topics page and look at information on Sea Cucumbers and Defensive Mucus in sea slugs.
If by chance you have information on true sea slugs being eaten I would like to know about it.
September 8, 1998
Many years ago, while in Korea on a business trip, our host served a meal including what was described as sea slugs. Though I can enjoy a very wide variety of foods, I found this to be exceptionally unpalatable.
Are any sea slugs routinely eaten by humans?
I think you probably were eating dried sea cucumbers rather than opisthobranch sea slugs most of which seem to have distasteful chemicals in their skins. Have a look at Sea cucumbers , "defensive mucus" and sea hare defence for further information. .. Bill Rudman.Rudman, W.B., 1998 (Sep 8). Comment on Edible Varieties by Random. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/216
July 13, 1998
From: Cory Pittman
Dear Dr. Rudman,
Regarding the "sea slug recipe", you are almost certainly correct in suggesting that it refers to a Holothurian. I know the Pacific Northwest well from my days as an undergraduate and about the only local species that "makes sense" considering the details of the method is Parastichopus californicus (one that's still eaten occasionally today).
Fairfield, WA, USA
email@example.comPittman, C., 1998 (Jul 13) Re: Sea Slug Recipes. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/104
July 7, 1998
From: Bruce Hallman
I am a bit rusty on distinguishing types of sea slugs, though I recall many different types in those waters. Nudibranchs is what I recall them being called in latin. I don't read or speak Kwakuitl, but the word translated into "sea slug" by George Hunt is written in Kwakuitl three ways that I see..."alasa", "alase", and "alas". George Hunt grew up on that coast so he certainly knew the sea life very well. Also, Elie Hunt recorded that "sea-slugs are only eaten in winter, when they are good. They are bad in summer."
Thanks Bruce, If anyone else has any ideas please share them with us .. Bill Rudman
July 5, 1998
From: Bruce Hallman
Going from memory, I recall reading Elie Hunt sea cucumber recipes too, which suggests that sea slugs were actually eaten by the Kwakuitl. Lots of the food they ate were quite gross relative to my 20th century palate. You might search out the source document, which was one of the many "annual reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithstonian Institution", this was published in 1914, I think. Franz Boaz was the ethnologist. Worth about $100 US on the used book market, or in most good libraries.
Dear Bruce, Thanks for your reply. If their "sea slug" was an opisthobranch mollusc I would be surprised, not for aesthetic reasons but because the most likely candidate (a sea hare) is potentially fairly lethal. Similar species in the tropical Pacific have caused fatalities ... Bill Rudman.Rudman, W.B., 1998 (Jul 5). Comment on Re: Sea Slug Recipes by Bruce Hallman. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/102
July 2, 1998
Sea Slug Recipes! mmmm
The site referred to is an account of a North American Indian tribe's method of catching and cooking "sea slugs". It would be interesting to know if they are referring to an opisthobranch or to some other marine animal. Perhaps a holothurian? .... Bill Rudman