Pass Over that Bag of Jellyfish Crisps

The Lempert Report
July 15, 2019

Inside Science reports that physicists have devised a preparation method that transforms gelatinous jellyfish into crisp chips -- and it may help make jellyfish a more common food.

Jellyfish can be prepared in a traditional method where they are soaked in a salty solution for 20 or more days and then dried. That preparation process leaves the jellyfish with a texture that the researchers describe as being like a pickled cucumber. A new method, however, was first developed in 2017. It not only offers a more rapid way of preparing jellyfish but also produces a new, crisp texture that might appeal to additional consumers. 

Now, in a paper recently published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, Mie Thorborg Pedersen, a researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, and Thomas Vilgis, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, in Mainz, Germany, have applied concepts from physics to explain why different preparation methods produce such different results. 

Jellyfish bodies have a similar composition to skin, with both containing collagen and elastin. They observed that the preparation process does not work when the aluminum is replaced with vinegar as is done when pickling vegetables. They found that, like in tanning, the process depended on the size of metal ions in the solution. 

This new method produces a crisp texture, more like a potato chip, where little deformation is possible and even a small force can create cracks that rapidly propagate through the jellyfish chip. 

While the technology offers many insights to better food production, I don’t think Frito-Lay has much to worry about for a while.