Abalone, known in the ancient days as “Haliotis Gigantean” (gastropods), is a kind of primitive marine snail that lives in the rocky seashore and feeds mainly on algae and seaweeds. It is a marine single-shell mollusk, comprising only half of a hull which is strong and thick, flat and wide, and is also commonly known as “The Ocean’s Ear.” Abalone is a valuable traditional Chinese tonic, and is ranked among the top seafoods with sea-cucumber, shark’s fin and fish maw. Since ancient times, abalone has always been considered a precious source of tonic for dignitaries with special dietary and therapeutic needs.
The origins of abalone may include the Northern part of Japan, Northeastern China, North Bay of Guangdong South China Sea, West Coast of North America, South America, South Africa, & Australia etc. Among them, Japan’s dried abalone and Mexico’s canned abalone are well recognized as one of the finest. In general, abalone can be divided into three categories:
• Fresh Abalone (frozen abalone)
• Abalone in soup (canned abalone)
• Sun-dried Abalone (dried abalone)
Out of the three, dried abalone is considered the most complex in terms of processing and cooking procedure, followed by frozen abalone. Lastly, canned abalone is the most convenient to cook.
Frozen Abalone is made from freezing fresh abalone quickly after removing its shell. “Green-lip Abalone‘’, ‘’Black-lip Abalone’’ and “Brown-lip Abalone” are examples of Frozen Abalone.
abalone edges are green in color, where meat is tender & with strong flavor, and most suitably used as soup ingredients.
abalone edges are black in color, where meat is succulent and chewy, and very often packed as fresh abalone into can (canned abalone).
abalone edges are brown in color, well known for its dark texture with strong flavor, and generally processed or treated as dried abalone.
Canned Abalone is also known as Soup Abalone, as they are made from fresh abalone immediately packed into can with soup, in order to attain a stable and desired quality. Canned abalone is very convenient and simple to prepare. Simply heat up the soup with abalone and it’s ready to be served.
Japanese canned abalone
Produced in Japan, it is considered more valuable and rare, with a long, slender and pointed body. It appears golden in color, with a smooth texture and strong flavor.
South African canned abalone
Produced in South Africa and regarded as one of the finest in quality, the abalone meat is slightly darker and the texture is smooth, with a delicate taste and rich flavor.
Mexico canned abalone
Produced in South America and regarded as one of the finest in quality among abalones, the abalone meat is slightly darker and the texture is smooth, with delicate taste and rich flavor.
Australia Tasmania canned abalone
Produced in Australia, abalone meat is slightly lighter in color with a smooth texture, refreshing taste and chewy tenderness.
New Zealand canned abalone
Produced in New Zealand, taste of abalone meat is slightly inferior compared to others, with easy disintegration of abalone edges after cooking. The meat is white in color with relatively smooth texture.
Canned Abalone with prime soup
Canned Abalone with prime soup is a new delicacy in recent years. The canned abalone is stewed in the original can with special sauce, and is extremely convenient to prepare by simply double-steaming.
Dried abalone is made by drying fresh abalone and is considered a rich source of seafood nutrients. It aids in eyesight improvement and hence has also been called as “Ming mu yu” (literally translated to “vision-improving fish”) in Chinese. In general, grading calibration is based on the number of “heads” found in a given kilogram. The higher the number of “heads”, the smaller the size of each abalone. The lower the number of “heads”, the bigger the size of the individual abalone, hence fetching a higher value on a per piece basis.
Dried Abalones are produced in Northern Japan, Middle East and South Africa. Among them, dried abalone from Japan is considered the best in quality as Japanese are renowned as experts in producing the finest quality of dry abalones. With its acclaimed abalone production techniques, Japan is also prestigiously known as the “King of Abalones.” Japanese dried abalones include “Amidori Abalone”, “Yoshihama Abalone” ,& “Oma Abalone”, followed by other dried abalones such as ” Middle East Dried Abalone” & “South African Dried Abalone.”
Japanese Dried Abalone
Amidori Abalone 网鲍
Originating from Aomori Prefecture in Japan, the body size of an abalone is comparatively bigger and appears coffee brown in color. The back of the abalone is bead shaped, with broad and rough edges.The suction cap at the bottom part is comparatively sharp, with an outer surface that appears slightly powdery white. The meat texture is chewy, displays a mesh pattern when cut, and has a strong aromatic flavor.
Yoshihama Abalone 吉品鲍
Produced in Iwate Prefecture of Japan, and commonly called “Kippin” abalone, they are gold-ingot shaped, with high occipital edges, upright bodies and visible stripes in their bellies. Those having a beautiful crystal color are regarded as the finest grade, with smooth and succulent meat texture.
Oma Abalone 禾麻鲍
Produced in Aomori Prefecture in Japan, and considered the finest quality among abalones, Oma abalone has a thin, short and broad body, with string holes by the sides. The string holes are caused by fishermen catching abalones from rocky crevices with hooks, then hung to dry with seaweeds, hence gaining the “Oma” logo brand. Oma abalone is golden in color, with a soft texture and smooth, rich flavor.
Other Sources of Dried Abalone
Middle East abalone 中东鲍
Produced in the Middle East, abalone size is smaller and darker in color, with slimy meat texture and slightly lacking fragrance.
South Africa abalone 南非鲍
Produced in South Africa, its quality is considered second only to Japan. The body edge is thick and rough, with big bellies and a smooth body. Its taste and flavor are very similar to Japanese dried abalones. It has an average color distribution on the surface and its texture is soft and smooth with rich flavor.
Abalone has been recognized by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to nourish ‘yin’ and ‘tonify’ yang, quench thirst and free strangury medicinal effect, and hence is considered a good source of marine products that provides good quality nutritional supplement for optimal health.
“Shi Liao Ben Cao” (dietetic materia medica) mentioned that abalone can replenish vital energy, relieve body heatiness, improve visual acuity, and has liver healing and circulation enhancing effects. Modern medical research discovers that abalone contains plenty of nutrients which are helpful to body health. Moreover, Abalone shell is also an effective medicine known as “Shin Jue Ming“ in TCM. It is also known as “Qian Li Guang” (Senecio) in ancient Chinese literature, with efficacy in improving visual acuity.
Abalone contains rich proteins and lots of nutritional constituents such as calcium, iron, iodine and vitamin A.
Abalone can preserve ‘yin’, repress hyperactive liver and nourish the kidney. It is effective in balancing the adrenal glands and maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Abalone regulates menstruation, relieves dryness, fortifies intestinal function and alleviates constipation.
Abalone is capable of nourishing ‘yin’ and supplementing vital energy. It is a kind of nourishing seafood which does not cause extra internal heat.
Abalone has high nutritional value and contains rich globulin; it contains a constituent called “Bao Su” which can destroy the indispensable metabolite of unhealthy cells.
PROCESS OF SOAKING DRIED ABALONE
Soaking of dry abalone is quite different compared to soaking other dried seafoods, as cooked abalone will be neither tasty nor tender if soaked insufficiently or improperly. Soaking with clean water is imperative, and soaking time differs based on abalone size and species. As the texture of Dried Abalone is often stiff and firm, it requires sufficient soaking time before cooking. There are 2 soaking methods as follows:-
Water cooking method
Soak dry abalone with water and keep in the refrigerator for 2 days. It is required to change water daily.
Clean off sediments from the soaked abalone, rinse and put in a pot with boiled water, cook and stew for 3 to 4 hours*. (Press the center of the abalone to ensure it has been thoroughly soaked. If not, repeat the soaking process and keep in refrigerator or simmer with boiled water till it’s thoroughly soaked.)
Prepare to proceed cooking; may add chicken or other herbs to stew for 1 hour and it’s ready to serve.
Soak the dry abalone with water and keep in refrigerator for 8 hours.
Remove the soaked abalone and clean off sediments, rinse and put in plate and steam for 1 to 2 hours*.
*Soaking and stewing time may need to be adjusted accordingly, depending on the size & thickness of the abalone per se
WAYS OF STORAGE FOR SOAKED ABALONE
Place abalone with water into an airtight box and keep refrigerated for a month, or place in freezer for storage lasting a year.
To serve, remove the above abalone to thaw, then cook with chicken or other herbs to stew for 1 hour, and it’s ready to serve.
To prepare canned abalone for a tasty meal; please follow the steps listed below:-
Remove the canned abalone label, do not open the canned abalone.
Put the canned abalone (with the can) into the water, ensure that canned abalone is completely submerged in the water.
Heat the water until it boils, turn to low heat and let it simmer for 45 to 60 mins. To prevent getting burned while touching the hot can, it is advisable to let the water cool off before removing the can from the water. It is ready to serve once abalone is removed from the can.