Abalone

Pronounce as ae.bahlow'niy as in aborigine is well known as one of the 8 treasure of Dried Seafood in Chinese cuisine. The common name, abalone, is probably from the Spanish term aulon or aulone.

The 8 treasure includes – Dried Abalone, Dried Scallop, Dried Fish Maw, Dried Sea Cucumber, Dried Shark’s Fin, Dried Fish Lips , Dried Oyster and Dried oops! I don’t remember whats the last product but do believe it to be Dried Fish – sole,etc.

From ancient days to now, it is very costly and valuable, we cant afford to eat them daily. Can you ? A normal quality canned abalone cost RM100.00 average. Calculate yourself to see whether you can afford them daily, weekly, monthly or whatever……

Abalone is classified as any of various large edible marine gastropods of the genus Haliotis having an ear-shaped shell with pearly interior. Believe it or not, they are SNAILS ! They are found from the intertidal to the depth limit of marine plants (approximately 80-100 m), from tropical to cold waters

Abalone, like shark’s fin, is a symbol of wealth and good fortune to the Chinese and is considered a banquet fare. Abalone is used to impart a distinct flavor to Chinese soups; its succulent taste and velvety texture are enticing. One of the finest and most expensive ingredients used in Chinese cuisine, this large marine snail is called “Pao Yu” in Chinese, known as "awabi" in Japanese cuisine, as "loco" in South American, as "ormer" in the English Channel, as "muttonfish" in Australia and as "paua" in New Zealand. Abalone are found in the water where rocks and seaweed are abundant. There are a few varieties available and the red abalone is the largest of the species and most generally available.

Abalone shells are unique snail shells, having a single, flat shell with a wide opening for the body and a single row of holes along one side of the shell(the left side). The holes normally ranging from 9 – 14 holes, continue to be formed throughout the life of the abalone. As they grow, new holes are made and older holes are filled in. These holes are used in the respiration, sanitation, and reproduction of the abalone. The typical spiral part of the snail shell is reduced and very flat in the abalone (called the apex). It may even be hard to notice this spiral in older animals who may have other organisms growing on the shell or have had a lot of abrasion in this area.

Shells are prized because of their inner, iridescent layer. The muscular foot has strong suction power permitting the abalone to clamp tightly to rocky surfaces. A column of shell muscle attaches the body to its shell The mantle circles the foot as does the epipodium, a sensory structure and extension of the foot which bears tentacles. The epipodium projects beyond the shell edge in the living animal. The epipodium surface may be smooth or pebbly in appearance and its edge may be-frilly or scalloped. It is the most reliable structure for identifying abalone species.The internal organs are arranged around the foot and under the shell. The most conspicuous organ, the crescent-shaped gonad, is grey or green in females and cream colored in males. It extends around the side opposite the pores and to the rear of the abalone. The abalone head has a pair of eyes, a mouth and an enlarged pair of tentacles. Inside the mouth is a long, file-like tongue called the radula, which scrapes algae matter to a size that can be ingested.The gill chamber is next to the mouth and under the respiratory pores. Water is drawn in under the edge of the shell, and then flows over the gills and out the pores. Waste and reproductive products are carried out in this flow of water.Since it has no obvious brain structure, the abalone is considered to be a primitive animal. However, it does have a heart on its left side and blood flows through the arteries, sinuses and veins, assisted by the surrounding tissues and muscles.

Click here for a view of abalone anatomy without shell.

For more info please refer to here

Species

In the animal kingdom, abalone belong to the phylum Mollusca, a group which includes clams, scallops, sea slugs, octopuses, and squids. Molluscs are worldwide and predominantly marine. They have a soft body surrounded by a mantle, an anterior head, and a large, muscular foot. Molluscs are best known for their beautifully formed and colored calcareous shell secreted by the mantle.

The abalone join other snails, whelks, and sea slugs in the class Gastropoda. Members of this class have one shell, as opposed to clams with two, or the shell may be lacking altogether, as in the sea slugs, move by means of a broad muscular foot. The spiral structure, so common in snail shells, is flattened in the abalone and may be obscured by fouling and shell boring organisms.

Abalone are members of the family Haliotidae and the genus Haliotis, which means sea ear, referring to the flattened shape of the shell.

Natural History

Abalones reach sexual maturity at a small size, and fertility is high and increases exponentially with size. Sexes are separate and fertilization is external. The eggs and sperm broadcast into the water through the pores with the respiratory current. A 1 ½ inch abalone may spawn 10,000 eggs or more at a time, while an 8 inch abalone may spawn 11 million or more eggs. The spawning season varies among species with black, green and pink abalone spawning between spring and fall, and pinto abalone spawning during the summer. Red abalone in some locations spawn throughout the year. The fertilized eggs hatch into floating larvae that feed on plankton until their shells begin to form. Once the shell forms, the juvenile abalone sinks to the bottom where it clings to rocks and crevices with its single powerful foot. Settling rates appear to be variable. After settling, abalones change their diet and feed on macroalgae.

Juvenile abalones feed on rock-encrusting coralline algae and on diatom and bacterial films. Adult abalones feed primarily on loose pieces of marine algae drifting with the surge or current. Large brown algae such as giant kelp, bull kelp, feather boa kelp and elk kelp are preferred, although other species of algae may be eaten at various times.

Abalone eggs and larvae are consumed by filter-feeding fish and shellfish. Predators of juvenile abalones include crabs, lobsters, gastropods, octopuses, seastars, and fishes.

Reproduction

The sexes are separate and can be distinguished in individuals as small as one inch when the gonads begin to develop. The eggs or sperm are released through the pores with the respiratory current. This is known as broadcast spawning. A 1.5 inch abalone may spawn 10,000 eggs or more at a time, while an 8 inch abalone may spawn 11 million or more. Spawning may be controlled by the water temperature or length of the day. The presence of eggs and sperm in the water may stimulate other abalone to spawn, thus increasing the chances of fertilization

Source from AbaloneDotNet. Do visit for info on abalone life cycle. Then you will understand why Abalone are so expensive.

History

Abalones have lived along the coast worldwide for millions of years. Fossilized shells closely resembling modern abalone have been found in sediments approximately 100 million years old. In more recent times abalone were important in the economy of all native peoples who dwelled in coastal areas.

Reference from some Chinese book

Abalone used to be called “Fu Yu” literary Stomach fish as it moves on its stomach ( actually the muscular foot)

During the Ming and Ching Dynasty, it is already in the list of the 8 treasure as per text found by historian. A Han Emperor by the name of “Wang Mang” loves this dish so much that he must have it daily. This was during his reign from 9 –23 AD.

220 – 280AD , cant remember which Dynasty, a powerful General by the name of “Cao Chao” love it as well. To please him, most rich man those days would present this dish in their Banquet.

Until the South Sung Dynasty 1127 – 1129 AD a scholar name “Su Tong Po” from where the dish called “Tung Po Yok” came from, wrote a poem called “Fu Yu Sing”. The way he describe the abalone had turned abalone to a MUST HAVE luxury item in their menu.

The abalone dish for the present time, was created by a famous General Tham from the famous THAM FAMILY CUISINE – “Tham Kar Choy”. This abalone dish called “Hong Siu Pau Yu” and “ Hou Yau Pau Yu” became a must to master for all Chinese Chef. This was during the early communist reign from 1911 – 1949 in Peking now known as Beijing.

In Chinese term of nutritional value, abalone have “Chi Pou” where it is considered as a food that will increase your body strength as in tonic. It is also known for its “Meng Mok” literary for good eye sight, “Moon Yi Luk” increasing our natural antibody.

Abalone is good for the ladies as they are also known for “ Chi Yam” literary meaning maintaining and assisting in balancing the hormone. Ahem ! So, all the hubby, feed your wife with abalone and it you get to enjoy your sex life more. Chuckle ! Just kidding, okay ?

Besides that, they are also “Cheng Yit” – rid the body of excess heat and “Yong Ngan” – for beauty of skin. Man, I don’t even know some of the word they uses to describe the goodness of abalone. My chef need to explain it to me several time to this BANANA before I can even grasp what he is trying to say.

In Chinese, abalone is also call

Ching Mian Yu– Mirror Fish
Jiu Kong Luo – 9 hole Snail
Meng Mok Yu – Eye Sight Fish

And lastly Hai Er as in Sea Ear due to the shape of the shell which is like a flatten ear.

Besides sweet and succulent of the foot, the abalone SHELL can be use to cure some eye disease especially improving eye sight. The Shell is call “Shi Jiu Ming” meaning bright eye as they believe once you consume the shell ( believe it to be in powder form) your eye sight will be improved. This is a part of the Chinese medicine.

Just like most exotic ingredients used in Chinese cuisine, the abalone is valued for its numerous medicinal properties. It’s high in protein, vitamin E, selenium and magnesium. Besides being reputed to be an aphrodisiac, the abalone is said to be good to our eyes and immune system. However, abalone should be avoided by people having a fever, flu or sore throat.


Commercial Abalone

The present commercial fishery began in the mid-nineteenth century, and peaked at an annual harvest of over five million pounds in 1957. Thereafter, about four million pounds were harvested annually until 1969 when a serious decline began. The decline has continued and in some places the fishery has disappeared altogether

Abalone are normally sold fresh as in live, frozen or chilled, dried and canned.

Yearly production is about 12,000 metric tonnes throughout the world. As in most food, with different environment we will get different quality.

Strong wave will effect the texture and maturing time. Different water temperature will effect and in some cases will decide the flavour and taste of the abalone.

Ideal condition for abalone

Abalone require water of the same chemical composition as seawater.
Fast water flow – intertidal zone or subtidal zone
High Salt content – no mixture of fresh water. That’s why we cant find abalone near river mouth.
Depth - No more than 400 metre. Different species different depth. For example, red abalone of California normally thrive in water depth of about 6 meter.
Reef – it is important to have reef as the seed or baby abalone needs to hide from predator. It takes them 3 – 4 years to grow up to 110 – 130 mm and that’s the SHELL diameter. A long time., eh ?

There are more than 100 species of abalone and most comes or grow naturally (as in wild) in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Africa, China, Mexico, some Europe country, US, Canada and Middle East.

The easiest to categorize them is via their shell colour. Red abalone have a reddish shell with red margin. Pink is pinkish white with pink margin.


Click here for some example of North American 8 species of abalone.


They are normally divided by their colour after cleaning. These are basically divided into 4 groups

1 Green Lipped Abalone - :Cheng Pin Pao ( Cantonese ), Qing Pian Pao ( Mandarin )

Most are found in Japan, Australia and Europe. Yearly average production topped 600metric tonne. These abalone are easily identified by the green colouring on the lips or foot of the abalone. They are mostly sold as frozen or canned product. It is tender and have a distinct abalone flavour. Cant describeit correctly in English. In Cantonese, it is described as “Long Nyuok”.


2 Black Lipped Abalone – “Hark Pin Pao” “Hei Pian Pao”

Mostly found in Africa, Australi and Mexico. Yearly production topped 4,200 metric tonne. Sold as live, chilled or canned product. Character similar to Green Lipped abalone except for the colour.

3 Brown Lipped – “Chong Pin Pao” “ Zhong Pian Pao”

Africa, Japan and Mexico is the main producer. This abalone is the most expensive and it topped 100 metric tones yearly .Usually bigger in size as in 1 head, 2 head and up to 4 head maximum in size. The colour is similar to the dried abalone – coffee colour It is very flavourful.

4 Mexico Abalone – “Mak Xai Co Pao” usual brand – Alisan and Wheel Brand

No need to mention where . It is usually canned. Mexico was one of the first and biggest canned abalone producer in the world. Topping 5,000 metric tonnes per annum. However, due to over fishing as they called it and environment pollution, they are now only producing 400 metric tonnes yearly. Taken over by Australia.

some picture here

Basic Processes

Sun Dried whole abalone.
Remove shell
Soaked in Brine
Blanch with hot water
Toast over charcoal
Sun Dried Again

The whole process takes about 2 – 4 weeks depending on sizes and method of drying. The process is very delicate and it takes years to master. The most important factor is the flavour, what the Cantonese called “Thong Sam” – Sugar Heart that really means the natural sweetness that accumulates in the muscle part as they dried. The texture can be described as similar to “Nian Kao” – It is smooth, kind of sticky when sliced ( like natural glue from gluten), the aroma is great and it will have a very strong abalone flavour. Chuckle ! Whatever ………

Dried abalone is normally divided in 6 groups

1Aomori – This abalone is one of the most famous and expensive of all dried abalone. As the name implied, its from a prefecture in Japan. This process is specialized by a Master Abalone Chef. I don’t know the Japanese name. It’s a family secret and will not passed to outsider. He is one of the 3 Master Abalone in the world. This abalone is considered by most to be the BEST quality dried abalone. Usually 1, 2, or 4 head abalone. Uses Brown Lipped Abalone.

It is similar to olive in shape but rounder. It had small lips and a lot of pearly like frills that is even. Near to white coffee in colour. As it is a very sensitive process, they only uses good quality fresh abalone. However, due to pollution and weather changes, the quality of this product had deteriorated.

Aomori is called “Mong Pao” in Cantonese as when it is slice horizontally, there is a net like lining on the muscle of the flesh.

Australia produces similar dried abalone but the pearly like frills are uneven in sizes. The texure is also tougher and have a woody sort of flavour. Africa’s will be much saltier.


2 Oma – Also known as “Her Ma Pao” or “Woma Pao”. From Japan , specialize by another family of Master Abalone Chef lead by Master Chef “Yong Kok” or “Xiong Gu” in Chinese. No known Japanese name.

This abalone is smaller in size as compared to Aomori. Biggest produced was 8 head abalone. It is also flatter – not as thick in the middle of the abalone muscle that we so love.

This abalone is known visually from a hole in the middle of the abalone. This is caused by the rope used to link the abalone for drying. The lips usually have a small scar caused by hook used to hook up the abalone. Uses smaller species of brown abalone that usually lives in the crevices of reef.

Since it is much smaller in size and thus cheaper, rich people usually take this abalone as snacks. What a waste. It is very tender and can be easily digest even by the elderly.


3 Iwate – also called “Kat Pan Pao” or “Ji PinPao” specialized by Master Chef “Ping Tian Wu Lang” in Chinese. The shape is similar to “Yin Pou” – err……Remember those Chinese movie that uses a junk like piece of Silver or Gold as $$ ? That is the shape that I wanted to explain. Get it ?

After drying, it will appear to be shiny. The texture is al dente and the flavour is hehehehhehe, flavourful. “Long Nyuok”. Visually you will see a line across the abalone caused by rope tying the abalone for drying. The tied the abalone on both end and leaving some bikini string like marking on the abalone. Iwate abalone have a high lips and it looks swollen. A good quality abalone that we usually get from a high class Chinese Restaurant.

It is located on the South of Aomori Prefecture.

4 Next on line will be the Middle Eastern Abalone.

Abalone from here is as not as good as those from Japan. Similar process but due to lack of experience and technique, the dried abalone have a tougher body in texture. You will have to braised them longer and the flavour is not as good too. However, the flavour can be improved with the addition of dried scallop to enhance the stock used for braising. Over the years they had improved their technique and have a quite reputable dried abalone in appearance

5 Solo ( Philippines ), Korean and Vietnamese Abalone

Usually sold as fresh or frozen. This abalone are not as good in quality due to water condition. If dried, Chef’s would normally used them as additional flavour for soup. The cheapest of the 3 will be Solo Abalone.

6 Last but not least is the China’s Da Lian Pao
Either sold as live or frozen . Their drying process skills is far beyond the rest of the world. Most of the times, you will get abalone that are only dried 60 – 70% only. This will cause a problem during storing. You will get fungus growing on your abalone and that will cause food poisoning, if consumed. They also smell of chemical. Easily recognize by the amount of salt crystal on the body of the dried abalone. They are similar to those from Vietnam but quality slightly better, if sold fresh or frozen.

The top 3 abalone, namely Aomori, Oma and Iwate is expensive because

- They are processed by Master Chef – quality guaranteed
- Longer growing and maturing time, averaging 10 – 20 years depending on size.
- Producing area – Japan where almost everything is expensive.

Example that my Chef had given me was this. For Aomori abalone….usually not more than 4 head in sizes. The sizes are indicated as such – after drying, they will weigh the abalone. They will calculate the numbers of abalone to a catty – 600 gm. If it is one number to a catty then it is called 1 head. That means that 1 number of abalone must be 600 gm – dried. Imagine how big it was when it was fresh. Imagine how many years it takes to grow to that size ? The more numbers you have in a catty, the smaller the sixe of the abalone. A 24 head abalone after cooking is only about 1 ½ - 2 inches in length.

Thus for Aomori abalone – it will be dried and process and reduced to 5 times the fresh abalone size before they will sell. So, if your abalone is a 2 head abalone ( 2 numbers in a catty ) the actual weigh of the abalone will at least 1.5kg including the shell. Can you I imagine that ? No wonder it is that EXPENSIVE. How can we commoners afford to eat that ? do you want to pay RM6,000.00 for a piece of Aomori Abalone ? Even if you can afford, it would be difficult to find a Restaurant that have this kind of abalone.

There is a saying in Chinese “ No wonder, if you eat abalone in a bite, it is expensive ” – literary it means take your time to savour the flavour of this luxurious delicacy.

Pricing

For the last 10 – 20 years, dried abalone price had increased by about 200 – 300%. Due to the scarcity, it is getting more expensive and it is difficult for us to even find those about 12 head. Forget about the bigger in size.

In Chinese cuisine, abalone had taken over shark’s fin in becoming the Emperor of Luxury Delicacy , in terms of pricing.


Choosing and cooking in brief

Abalone can be purchased fresh, canned, dried or salted and is available in markets and Asian specialty stores. The best kind of dried abalone is devoid of cracks and mold. Avoid darkened ones. If purchased fresh, it should be alive and not fishy-smelling. Refrigerate fresh abalone as soon as possible in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cook within a day of purchase. Store frozen abalone in its wrapper in the freezer and it will last for two months. Canned abalone is the most popular for home cooking because it’s cheaper and easier to prepare.
Fresh abalone is usually briefly sautéed or fried and must be tenderized by pounding before cooking. If you manage to procure processed abalone steaks, they will already be tenderized. Fresh abalone should be fried not more than 30 seconds per side or it will become tough and chewy. Dried abalone, on the other hand, is ideal for soups because it has a more concentrated flavor than that of a fresh one. It is usually simmered in broth for many hours to soften it and served whole or in slices with savory topping sauce. The time to simmer depends on the size of the abalone. It is very important that abalone is not overcooked or they will become chewy.

Source and Reference

marine science

abalonedotnet

seafood@ucdavis

biosbcc

vetigastropoda

sonicdotnet

Korean

japanshop

Mbayaqdotorg

zeridotorg

seafood@ucdavis

zoology

seasabresdotcom

oceanlinkdotnet

Sorry I cant provide picture for the time being....maybe I will have them for my next post. Hang on


Disclaimer - The above is quoted from internet sources and books. It does not represent that the reviewer is an expert in this field. He is merely, doing his research for his own knowledge and information.

Cheers !

16 comments:

Primrose said...

Wow, long post wor.

Yup, many ppl mispronounce this word are air-ba-lorn instead of air-ba-low-ny. I have corrected many but malaysians remain malaysians.

Pau yue is made more affordable now. Each is normally about RM60-RM90 depending on size or included in a RM299 or RM399 5 or 6 course meal. Yum!

culinary said...

really appreciate your effort in sharing the knowledge of abalone, its wasnt an easy task.

thank you for sharing such a detailed write out.

boo_licious said...

Wow! Great compilation - must bow down to the abalone sifu. Now I know all abt my canned abalones. By the way, do you know if one can use the liquid in the can? To me it's full of preservatives but I heard that some people use it.

slurp! said...

wow! what a great reference! a bit too much for supper but i keep this (reading) for another day :D Good work!

Godknows said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Godknows said...

My godness me, such a long post. I have to spend more time to read it carefully. Great work mate.

fooDcrazEE said...

err...it is a long post but i sort of didnt really arrange them nicely and still left out a lot of details.

Boo, not recommended to use the liquid but think its ok if use a lil for sauce.

Fran, u rich lady, thats why u can afford. Me poor bugger,cant afford,lolz

Tu, Nha Trang have a lot of baby abalone, delish and cheap....not bad for a dozen or so with nice cold bia.

Godknows said...

Yes, you are right hehe

KY said...

hello professor mike.

fooDcrazEE said...

Tu, i stayed in Vietnam for 3 1/2 yrs, most of the time in HCMC...chuckle

KY, perli nampak

mg said...

Wow, you've put a lot of effort on this to educate us all!

Ormer is how we call it here indeed and it's endeangered species. I'm not actually sure if one is allowed to fish for these. My guess is not!

I've had a whole abalone once for myself - I had a chinese male friend who was trying to impress me by taking me to his uncle's popular restaurant and they went all out on a chinese banquet and presented me with the abalone. They said it's a tonic - i didn't know it was endangeared! I can't really remember the taste now but it was slightly chewy!

fooDcrazEE said...

i dont really fancy abalone as well ....its just s status thingy i guess

totenkuchen said...

Wow, you did a lot of work on this piece, it is great! I love to learn about the significance of different types of food to other cultures. The scientific data was very interesting! We have divers that harvest abalone off the California coast, but they mollusks are becoming pretty scarce. Some of it is because of over fishing, but the main reason is the pollutants entering the ocean waters. Hope we all wise up before the abalone and other species are gone forever...

Thanks for the wonderful article!!

I like fish myself...

fooDcrazEE said...

thanx to u divers, we are able to have different type of species to be studied and some to eat

Jane Kaylor said...

Thanks for the recipe!!! Love it. Fresh or frozen local abalone is cheaper but will never give the same taste, flavor and texture as canned abalone. I love the flavor and taste of canned abalone and one day I want to eat abalone like 'abalone kings' do: braised in sauce and served whole, like a steak, washed down with a good white wine. Cut with a knife and fork of course. Meantime, it's still cheaper to slice abalone thinly and share with the family. I love this dish. It's such a special treat

Wigglez said...

I searched for days already on the drying process in detail. Is there anyone who knows the process. Please email me at wagglezz@yahoo.com