Jellyfish are an important source of food to the Chinese community and in many Asian countries. Only jellyfish belonging to the orderRhizostomeae are harvested for food. Rhizostomes, especially Rhopilema esculentum in China (Chinese name: ?? haizhe) and Stomolophus meleagris (cannonball jellyfish) in the United States, are favoured because they are typically larger and have more rigid bodies than other scyphozoans. Furthermore, their toxins are innocuous to humans.
Traditional processing methods, carried out by a Jellyfish Master, involve a 20 to 40 day multi-phase procedure in which the umbrella and oral arms are treated with a mixture of table salt and alum, and compressed. The gonads and mucous membranes are removed prior to salting. Processing reduces liquidation, off-odors and the growth of spoilage organisms, and makes the jellyfish drier and more acidic, producing a "crunchy and crispy texture." Jellyfish prepared this way retain 7-10% of their original, raw weight, and the processed product contains approximately 95% water and 4-5% protein, making it a relatively low calorie food. Freshly processed jellyfish has a white, creamy color and turns yellow or brown during prolonged storage.
In China, processed jellyfish are desalted by soaking in water overnight and eaten cooked or raw. The dish is often served shredded with a dressing of oil, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar, or as a salad with vegetables. In Japan, cured jellyfish are rinsed, cut into strips and served with vinegar as an appetizer. Desalted, ready-to-eat products are also available.
Fisheries have begun harvesting cannonball jellyfish along the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico for export to Asian nations.