The diversity of the marine fauna is practically incomprehensible and some species never cease to amaze us. One of them is the ‘Urechis unicinctus’, very popular in China, Japan and Korea but especially famous in the world for its informal name: the ‘penis fish’.
Urechis unicinctus a very popular worm in China, Japan and Korea
Technically it is not a fish but a sea worm that usually lives in low tide areas, inside tunnels that it builds in the sand or mud. It can measure up to 25 centimeters.
It is known for having a soft texture and flavor, a characteristic given by its high amount of amino acids. Its consumption is common in Chinese, Japanese and Korean gastronomy, although each country has its own way of preparing it.
For example, in China it is usually prepared fried or cooked. In coastal areas such as Qingdao or Dalian they are stored dry and rehydrated when cooked.
In Japan the recipe is different, as it is usually used -cooked or bathed in vinegar- for sashimi, a dish that combines slices of different types of raw fish with soy sauce or wasabi, as well as preserved ginger.
In Korea, perhaps where the consumption of ‘penis fish’ is most common, it is usually served as part of hoe, a dish similar to Japanese sashimi but with a typical Korean hot sauce, called cho gochujang, and on traditional Asian ‘cellophane noodles’ without cooking.
This particular fish not only has uses in the kitchen. In medicine, the ‘penis fish’ is often used to treat spinal and kidney problems. In turn, and paradoxically considering its shape, it is also used to treat erectile dysfunction in men.