Jellyfish crisps: the ready-salted treat making waves in the snacking world
It is the ultimate ready-salted crisp, even if it does come with a slight sting in the tail.
Scientists have invented jellyfish crisps, which they claim could provide a healthier alternative to deep fried varieties.
Jellyfish is already eaten as a delicacy in Asian countries, but currently the drying technique takes at least a month and leaves a gristly, stringy substance that has never caught on in the West.
Now researchers in Denmark have discovered that by soaking jellyfish in alcohol and allowing it to evaporate, the creatures turn into paper-thin, crunchy discs which are similar in texture to a traditional potato crisp.
Gastrophysicist Mie Thorborg Pedersen of the University of Southern Denmark, said the crisps could be made in huge quantities in just a couple of days.
"Actually there is nothing new in eating jellyfish," said Miss Thorborg Pedersen. "It’s an old tradition dating back more than a thousand years in Asia. Jellyfish are a delicacy believe it or not.
"I researched how turn slimy jellyfish into a crispy jellyfish chip.
"Gels respond differently when put in different solutions. In alcohol some gels simply collapse, and that is exactly what we see a jellyfish doing. As the jellyfish collapses, the water is extracted from it and its volume is reduced.
"After we let it evaporate a crispy jellyfish chip emerged, which we can eat."
Perhaps surprisingly, the desiccated jellyfish do not have much taste, but scientists believe that they could be flavoured using different kinds of alcohol.
Jellyfish crisps are also far healthier than normal crisps. A 25g portion of crispy jellyfish contains just 0.5g of fat. In comparison, a bag of ready salted crisps contains 8g.
Jellyfish also contain high levels of selenium which is known to reduce free radicals and fight the ageing process, preventing oxidative stress and defending against prostate and colon cancer.
There are also huge numbers of jellyfish in the sea, which can cause problems for fishing fleets because they can make nets to heavy to haul in, meaning entire catches have to be thrown back into the water. Some experts claim that jellyfish are the most sustainable creatures in the sea, and are experiencing huge population booms because of global warming.
“You could say that jellyfish is an overlooked delicacy, offering lots of opportunities because our seas are teeming with them,” added Miss Thorborg Pedersen.
“It’s easy to do experiments by putting them in different types of alcohol, to give them different flavours.”
However, scientists may want to do more to try and cut salt levels. Eating a bag of jellyfish crisps has the entire recommended salt intake for the day.
Global warming is already causing swathes of jellyfish to flock to British beaches as warmer seas attract creatures.
Portuguese Man Of War jellyfish - which have dangerous stings leaving victims in severe pain - have been spotted along the South West coast in recent years are likely to come in larger numbers as the climate warms.
Mauve stingers, which also have powerful stings, were also spotted across the South West as recently as last year, although usually in the winter.
Lion's mane jellyfish have the most powerful and painful sting of the UK species, but are rarely seen south of the Irish Sea or Norfolk, with most reports coming from Scottish waters.
The most commonly encountered species in the UK is the moon jellyfish, but their very mild stings are little cause for concern.
Blue and barrel jellyfish are also spotted regularly on Britain's beaches, but are similarly mild.
A recent study by Plymouth University found that ocean acidification, caused by rising carbon dioxide levels will help species of jellyfish inhabit new areas.
Slimy, jelly-like creatures are far more tolerant of rising CO2 levels than those with hard structures like corals, since exposed shells and skeletons simply dissolve away as carbon dioxide levels rise.
"We are witnessing the spread of marine life that cause problems - such as toxic jellyfish blooms and rotting algal mats," said Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, lead author of the report.
“We predict the problems associated with harmful marine life will get worse in response to rising CO2. "
The results were published in The International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science.