If you are a fan of seafood, you most probably heard about abalone. Abalone is classified as marine gastropod mollusk, also known to be referred as one of the sea snails. It can be usually found in cold waters around Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, and Western North America. However, it once became popular around the globe, that some of its types are almost listed as low due to overfishing and exploitation. Abalone is most famous in Southeast Asia and in countries where it can be usually found. This sea snail is considered a rare delicacy in Chinese cuisine, just like how they are known with shark’s fin and bird’s nest. So, what does abalone taste like? What makes it so expensive? Can you still buy abalone despite its decreasing numbers?
Well, continue to read through this article as we will discuss the facts about abalone.
What is Abalone?
Abalone is a marine snail that lives in cold coastal saltwater. They are a member of a family called Haliotidae and considered to be one of the most valuable seashells in the world. Abalone was once very popular in Latin American and Southeast Asia cuisine. In fact, to some countries, this is considered a luxury item, not mainly due to its taste but because of its rarity and price. It is often served on special occasions such as weddings and other special celebrations.
What Does Abalone Look Like?
There is an obvious reason why abalone is called an “ear shell” as it pretty much resembles the appearance of a human ear. Unlike other sea snails, abalone has only one flat shell on top with small numerous holes and tentacles on its edges that act its protection, while they use their large foot to crawl to rocks and eat algae. Once you flip it, you would see an oyster-like color that varies by each type. Additionally, abalone can adapt the color of their surroundings, thus camouflaging often to the rocks that they cling on
What Does Abalone Taste Like?
As to how abalone looks, it may not so look delectable to eat but as they say, “don’t judge the book by its cover”. You can eat it raw or cooked, depending on your mood but they say that it’s best when grilled. As a marine living species, it is given that abalone will taste salty but it has a buttery hint in it. In fact, the taste can be compared similarly to the taste of the scallop.
With its texture, it has this chewy but tender bite when properly cooked. It is almost like you are eating something between the texture of a squid and a scallop. On the other hand, when made overcooked, it will end up rubbery and lose a little of its rich seafood creamy taste. Below are some of the quality and taste of known types of abalone:
- Japanese Kippin Abalone – known to be the most expensive but of best quality that you can eat.
- Mexican Abalone – if you are the type of person who wants their food soft, this one is for you. Mexican abalone is re
- nowned as the softest type.
- African Abalone – Comes with the greatest marine smell among its type.
- Australian Abalone – Chewier in texture and sweeter than other variant.
- New Zealand Abalone – Contains stronger flavor but comes with more reasonable value.
Why Is Abalone So Expensive?
If you are thinking that the reason why abalone is so expensive is due to its peculiar taste, you are mistaken. Truffle of the sea – this is what Japan calls their abalone. Its value is high due to its rarity. Abalone is unlike oysters that can be usually found on any coastal waters.
Aside from the fact that it can be only found on certain and few coastal, the labor on finding for them contributes as well on the value.
Also, if you think that these abalones can be scooped out as easily as oysters or scallops, you are wrong. Do not be fooled by its looks; these require an intensive force to detach these sea snails from the rocks. This also contributes to the price. The demand and supply is also another factor on the high price to top off the sea snail.
Why is Abalone Illegal to Take?
Due to decreasing numbers of certain types of abalone, it is now imposed that it’s illegal to take and catch one. Currently, only the red type abalone may be allowed for sport-obtained fishing. The rest are strictly protected by the law.
The main reason for the continuously decreasing numbers of abalone is due to poaching – the biggest threat to abalone extinction. People in the localities are being paid by either drugs or large money to illegally find and collect such types of abalone.
White, pink, and green are the specific species of abalone that are included on the endangered species list. There are now proposals on-going to restoration sites around in San Clemente and Santa Barbara Islands as an action plan to prevent these species from going extinct. Thus, make sure to only buy from legit stores or market that sells the allowed abalone specie.
Abalone has been massively popular to where these can be usually found, such as Japan and South Africa. A great deal of value is known comes along with these human ears like sea snail due to their rarity and intensive labor included to find and harvest. How about the taste – “What does abalone taste like?”, does it also pay off the price? We say it’s totally worth it once prepared properly as raw or cooked! It’s almost as tasty as oysters but with more buttery flavor in it. The texture is also peculiar when with these sea snails.
However, as some types are included on the endangered list of extinction, we highly suggest to only buy from only legal or licensed stores from the market or even restaurants. This is your chance to do your part to save these precious sea snails from going totally extinct in the future. Either way, it sounds easy to do that, right?