Can You Eat a Starfish?

Can You Eat a Starfish?

Yes, you can eat starfish and you will find them being served on a stick in China’s food markets. However, not everyone eats them because their taste is not appealing to some. 

It has been said that they taste like a sea urchin. Some say they taste like ocean water. Others say they smell like a beach at low tide. The texture is moist, soft, and mushy.

What is a Starfish?

A starfish, also known as a sea star, is an invertebrate, meaning they do not have a backbone. They are carnivores, 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 those with 5 legs, but some species have 10 and 20 legs. Some even have 40 legs.

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.

Starfish regenerating legs
Starfish regenerating legs

How Does a Starfish Move?

A starfish is an echinoderm 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.

Can Starfish Be Poisonous?

Some starfish are poisonous and have tetrodotoxins and saponins in their spikes (like the crown-of-thorns starfish), so you should never try to prepare it yourself. You should only eat it when cooked by an expert.

In Indonesia, where eating starfish is a delicacy and a part of their culture, they still prepare and consume all starfish, even if poisonous. They cut and squeeze the starfish to get all the water out of it; then, they cook it in coconut and sour milk. They feel this way of preparing and cooking gets the poison out.

Crown-of-thorns starfish with its poisonous spikes
Crown-of-thorns starfish with its poisonous spikes

What Do Starfish Taste Like?

Since the meat tastes bland, you may want to season it or have some sauce to dip it in.

Also, the meat is brown and has a creamy texture, similar to ground beef’s meat texture. What the texture is and how it tastes will depend on who is eating it.

Can You Eat Starfish Raw?

Raw starfish is not safe for human consumption as it can contain bacteria that are harmful to humans.

Additionally, raw starfish do not have a pleasant taste, making them unpalatable to most people.

How Do You Cook Starfish?

Expert cooks will deep fry the starfish in a deep fryer or boil them in hot, salted water. Most will use the boil method. The starfish has to boil for 5 to 8 minutes. When taken out of the boiling water, it’s placed in a bowl of cold water for about 15 seconds. 

After it has cooled, they will lay it belly up and open each foot to get at the cooked flesh, which will look gray. They usually 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 you can scoop it out with your tongue, fingers, or 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 preparing a starfish to consume, it is best if it is alive, but if they have been dead for less than 24 hours, it will be okay to eat.

Starfish scorpions seahorse skewers
Starfish scorpions seahorse skewers

The Takeaway

The starfish is found in many restaurants in Asia and is served as a popular street food in China and Japan. You can also find starfish in sushi restaurants. Just remember that it is best to leave the cooking of a starfish to expert cooks.

Remember that when it comes to the taste of starfish, it definitely has a unique flavor so if you’re not an adventurous eater, you may want to skip on this Asian delicacy,

Want to learn about other sea creatures to eat? Check out Can You Eat a Horseshoe Crab

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