The humble sea cucumber may lay claim to starting Australia's first resource boom to China - back in the 1700s.
World experts on sea cucumbers have descended upon the Australian National University for a symposium on the history of sea cucumber harvesting - which brought Indonesian fisherman into contact with indigenous communities in northern Australia decades before European settlement.
And in both a logistical and gastronomic feat of quite some proportion - a batch of fresh Australian sea cucumber - species ''burrowing blackfish'' - was served to conference-goers last night.
Cooked by Chinese chef Jingtai Zhang at the Spicy Ginger Cafe on the edge of the ANU Campus, it was served in a simple stir fry with ginger, shallots, bok choy and Chinese rice wine.
Mr Zhang has some experience handling the large slug-like creatures although the sea cucumber's rarity and high prices keep it off his everyday menu - it sells for up to $13,000 a kilogram in China.
According to symposium organiser and ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences senior lecturer Marshall Clark, the sea cucumber forged the very first trade links between Aboriginal Australian and Indonesian fisherman as they worked together to harvest the abundant stocks in Arnhem Land and the Kimberley for a voracious Chinese appetite.
The sea cucumber, also known as trepang, has always been considered a delicacy in China as well as a reputed aphrodisiac.
Dr Clark described the delicacy last night as tasting ''a lot like eel''.
As to whether it lived up to its reputation as an aphrodisiac, Dr Clark emphatically responded: ''It works''.
For most of the 40 conference-goers - including indigenous traditional land owners and Indonesian academics - it was the first time they had tasted sea cucumber, despite the fact they are considered world authorities on the echinoderm. Dr Clark noted the one regular sea cucumber consumer among the group had five children.
The collaboration between the Indonesian fishermen of Sulawesi, known as Macassans, and the local indigenous Australians created some very strong and long-lasting ties, according to Dr Clark. ''We can see it in indigenous rock and bark paintings depicting the arrival of the Macassan fishing boats and in the cultures, mythologies and languages of the Top End - where a lot of Macassan and Indonesian words are still found in local languages today,'' Dr Clark said.
The Macassans stopped coming to northern Australia in 1907 when sea cucumber fishing was made illegal by the colonial authorities. Since then they have had to rely on local supply.
Both Australian and Indonesian sea cucumbers remain lucrative exports to China.
Last night's supply was trucked to Melbourne from the Northern Territory, where it was processed by Tasmanian Seafoods.
Their fisheries Research Manager Grant Leeworthy, who is speaking at the conference, then transported the creatures in a polybox to Canberra - the temperature a chilly minus18 degrees.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.