Tu Sun Dong (Chinese: 土笋冻) is a dish consisting mainly gelatin extracted from boiled sea worms topped with spices and herbs such as cilantro, soy sauce, vinegar, and chili sauce. The literal translation of the name means “earth bamboo shoots, chilled.” These sea worms are commonly harvested in shallow, muddy beaches in the southwestern province of Fujian, China. Prices range from anywhere between five and ten kuai. Although the slimy, smooth texture and physical features of the worm might seem daunting to eat, this protein rich food is known for its ability to strengthen the immune system and ward off the common cold.
The main ingredients are sipunculid worms and a variety of spices. Most vendors will put strong flavors such as soy sauce, vinegar, and chili sauce to counterbalance the mild, sour flavor of the worms.
First, the sipunculid worms are soaked in water to get rid of the excess mud. Then, they are thrown into boiling water. The boiling worms release a gelatin like substance. This gelatin is then poured into small molds. After waiting a period of time to cool, this slightly brown and dull yellow looking gelatin are set in the white carcasses of the worm. Achieving the jelly, smooth texture is a sign of a good Tu Sun Dong. The jelly is then topped with the vendor’s special array of spices and herbs.
Similar to many delicious, impromptu kind of dishes, this delicacy started as a necessity. A military commander with his army in Xiamen ordered his men not to seize any food from the indigenous people. Many soldiers stationed near the beach found a bountiful amount of sea worms. They simply boiled these worms and ate them. Coincidentally, the chilling cold of the winter naturally turned the soup into jelly. A vast majority of the soldiers rather preferred the jelly than the soup and this dish was born.