Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sea Worm Jelly

Though it may sound unappetizing, most translators end up calling Xiamen's 土笋冻 (tŭ sŭn dòng) “sea worm jelly.” Perhaps you think this is a colorful euphemism, or a lost-in-translation moment. In fact, sea worm jelly is exactly what this is.

The primary ingredients are sipunculid worms harvested from shallow water and muddy beaches on the coast of Fujian.

Here's what they look like. Photo credit: Wikimedia User:Vmenkov

A bunch of these worms are boiled, which releases a slimy collagen into the water that functions similarly to pectin. As the water cools, it is poured into small molds to set like gelatin. A short while later you’ve got small, firm, wiggly mounds of cloudy yellow-gray gelatin in which are suspended long, white worm carcasses. Before you receive a bowl of tŭ sŭn dòng, the vendor will cover it with some combination of chili sauce, mustard, wasabi, soy sauce, vinegar, and cilantro to give it some strong flavors. So what does sea worm jelly taste like, I hear you asking? Frankly, not too much on its own. It tastes and feels like cool, smooth, unflavored (albeit mildly sour and briny) gelatin with some slightly chunkier textures within. The real flavor comes from the sauces on top, which can give it a powerful, sinus-clearing kick. One of the joys of street food is finding truly novel things to eat, and a gelatin made from boiled worms dug up from beach mud is likely to be mightily novel for most people. For a uniquely local street food experience, you really can’t go wrong with tŭ sŭn dòng.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Big News

Hello, friends, followers, Sinophiles, and street food lovers. As you might know, I've been working on this book for a good long time now. Several months ago, I posted a three-year update explaining where things stood on getting it out onto the market. Among the reasons I cited for it not being finished was that I was taking some time to look for a publisher, rather than going straight to self-publishing. At the time I said, "I am going to keep heading that direction [i.e. searching for a publisher] for a few more months. If nothing pans out then I will go the self-publishing route."

Well, here we are a few months later, and I'm very pleased to announce that something did, in fact, finally pan out. Today I'm happy to share that I officially have a publisher for my book! My new favorite publishing house is Blacksmith Books, an independent Hong Kong-based publisher that "focuses on publishing China-related non-fiction." The contract is signed and we are now moving forward into the editing stage of the process. If they are looking forward to working with me as much as I am looking forward to working with them, I think it's safe to say that this will be a great partnership.

So, big sigh of relief over here in North Carolina. No more emailing publishers and agents and getting no responses or "no" responses. I'm thrilled to be at the point where I am now--closer than ever to getting this book off of my computer and into a bookstore near you. If you're wondering when that might happen, I am afraid I don't have a clear answer for you. But you can be sure that I will keep you updated here (and on my Facebook page). In the meantime, sit tight and know that Blacksmith and I are working hard to have a finished copy in your hands as soon as possible.

So that's the update. Thanks to all for your continued support. This has been a long process, and I am ever grateful for your steadfast readership and interest.