Yes, you can eat a Starfish, and many times in China’s food markets, you will find them being served on a stick. Not too many people eat them because to some, their taste is not appealing. It has been said that they taste like a Sea Urchin but a bit more bitter and creamier. Some say they taste like ocean water. Some say they smell like a beach at low tide. The texture is moist, soft, and mushy. So, yes, you can eat a starfish but do you want to?
What is a Starfish?
A Starfish is an invertebrate, meaning they do not have a backbone. They are a carnivore and in the wild, they can live up to 35 years. On average, they weigh as much as 11 pounds and range in size from 4.7 to 9.4 inches. In the world’s oceans, there are about 2,000 species of Starfish, from the cold seafloor to the tropical habitats. The most common type of Starfish is the ones with five arms but there are some species with 10 and 20 arms. Some even have 40 arms.
They are protected from most predators due to their bony, calcified skin and some even have striking colors that scare off potential attackers or camouflage them. Starfish are famous for having the ability to regenerate limbs. In some cases, they can regenerate their entire body. They can do this because most of their vital organs are stored in their arms. Most need the central body to regenerate but some just need a portion of a severed limb to regenerate.
A Starfish is an echinoderm, which is closely related to Sand Dollars and Sea Urchins. The Starfish do not have a brain so they use their senses to make decisions and to feel. It has no blood so it uses a type of hydraulic water vascular system to provide it with seawater along with helping it move through the water and to feed. They do not have an eyeball but an eyespot on the end of each arm to sense dark and light.
How to Prepare a Starfish to Eat
Some Starfish are poisonous so you should never attempt to try to prepare it yourself. You should only eat it when cooked by an expert. The experts will deep fry the Starfish in a deep fryer or they will boil them in hot salted water. Most will use the boil method. The Starfish has to boil for five to eight minutes. When you take it out of the boiling water, place it in a bowl of cold water for about 15 seconds.
After it has cooled, lay it belly up and open each foot to get at the cooked flesh, which will look gray. You need to use a pair of pliers or a lobster cracker to crack open the hard outer shell. You should not attempt to eat the skin. All you need to do is scoop out the flesh and enjoy it. Some say that you can scoop it out with your tongue, your fingers, or with a spoon. It is up to you how you want to eat it.
In China, when they serve it on a stick, you are given the entire Starfish with a small stick stuck through its one leg, or tentacle. It will be up to you to break off the legs, crack them open, and get the meat out. It is considered a delicacy there. When you get it there, it has been deep-fried
When preparing a Starfish to consume, it is best if it is a live one but if they have been dead less than 24 hours it will be okay to eat. They will be too tough to eat if they have been dead for more than 24 hours. There is little meat in a Starfish so you may want to eat more than one.
Taste and Texture
Since the meat is tasteless, despite what some have said, you may want to season it or have some type of sauce to dip the meat in. Some that have eaten Starfish say the meat is brown and has a texture between ground beef and toothpaste. What the texture is and how it tastes will depend on who is eating it.
As mentioned, some Starfish are poisonous but in Indonesia, they do not care if the Starfish they are preparing to eat is poisonous or not. The poisonous Starfish have tetrodotoxins and saponins in their body that are poisonous if it gets in your body. In Indonesia, they will take a Starfish, cut it, and then squeeze it to get all the water out as Starfish does not have blood. Then they prepare it by cooking it with coconut or sour milk before they eat it. They know that some species are poisonous but they feel cooking it this way, they will not be poisoned. Eating Starfish is a delicacy for them and a part of their culture.
Although their relative the Sea Urchins is becoming a popular dish in restaurants world-wide, the Starfish is not, especially in the Western world. The Starfish is found in many restaurants in China and Japan, even being a part of street food. You can also find Starfish sometimes in sushi restaurants. Just remember that it is best to leave the cooking of a Starfish to experts but if you can buy Starfish from a reputable seller and know it is not poisonous, you can use the boiling method to cook it. This seems to be the method that is mostly used.
Although Starfish is not generally considered food, it is edible but for some, it may not be particularly palatable. If you have a chance to try it, then you should do so. You may find that it is actually pretty good and you may want more. For some, it may be an acquired taste.
So in answer to the question, Starfish is edible but it is a lot of trouble to go through for so little meat that has very little taste and can be mushy and unappealing to look at.
Want to learn about other sea creatures to eat? Check out Can You Eat a Horseshoe Crab