Abalone

Introduction
Abalone,initially named gastropod or muttonfish, is a kind of primitive marine snails that lives in the rocky seashore and feeds on algae and seaweed. It is a marine univalve mollusk. It has a single shell which is strong and thick, flat and wide, looks like the shape of a human ear. Therefore, it is also called “Sea-ears”.
Abalone is a valuable traditional Chinese delicacy, is one of the “eight treasures” of seafood. It is also one of the 4 most valuable seafood ingredients – abalone, sea cucumber, shark’s fin and fish maw. In Qing dynasty, ‘abalone banquet’ was already known in the emperor’s palace. There is a saying that the Chinese pronunciation of abalone – “bao yu” means “the wallet never goes short of money”. Hence, abalone can be used as an auspicious gift to be given to friends and relatives, as well as a decent dish for special occasions such as weddings and other celebrations.
The production areas of abalone spread wide, including northern Japan, northeastern China, west coast of North America, South America, South Africa and Australia, etc. Abalones originated from Japan and canned abalones produced in Mexico are recognized as having the best quality. Due to over-harvesting for years, abalone populations are gradually reduced year by year. To increase supply, aside from exploiting scarce and rare wild abalones, farmed abalones have been introduced and are now occupying the majority share of the market.
Abalones available in the market are usually divided into 3 categories: frozen abalone (freshly frozen), canned abalone (abalone being packed in can) and dried abalone. The meat of abalone is fresh and delicious, nutritious. It is nourishing but does not develop extra internal heat. It nourishes the liver to improve visual acuity. The abalone shell is a kind of famous traditional Chinese medicine called “Shi Jue Ming”. “Shi Jue Ming” dissipates internal heat, improves visual acuity and represses hyperactivity of the liver and internal wind. Abalone is nutritious, with pure and strong taste, is excellent in making delicious dishes or soups.

Selection
For the sake of timesaving and treatment convenience, many people opt to buy canned abalone. Is there any guideline for consumer to buy canned abalone?
Select by exporting country
Canned abalone has undergone the process of packing fresh abalone into can. It is also called soup abalone because the can contains soup. Canned abalone comes from many production areas: Japanese Yoshihama abalone, Mexican “Wheel” abalone, Australian canned abalone and New Zealand canned abalone. The highest grade belongs to Japanese Yoshihama abalone; it is followed by Mexican “Wheel” abalone. Since the production scale of Japanese Yoshihama abalone is small, so Australian canned abalone and New Zealand canned abalone are more popular.
Select by the number of whole-piece abalone
The grading of canned abalone is determined by the number of whole-piece abalone. However, the computation methodology is not the same as counting the number of dried abalone. The number of whole-piece abalone in a canned abalone means the number of whole-piece abalone in a can. Like dried abalone, the bigger in size of canned abalone (i.e. the number of whole-piece abalone is at the fewest), the higher is the price. For instance, 2 cans of abalone of equal weight, the price of the can holding 1 whole-piece abalone is higher than the can holding 2 whole-piece abalones.

Effect

Being a valuable traditional Chinese delicacy and a favourite dish in banquets and occasions of celebrations, abalone has been under study in regard to its nutritional value and therapeutic effect. In recent years, people study abalone from traditional Chinese medicinal aspect and scientific aspect and discover that abalone contains plentiful nutrients which are helpful to the health of the body.
Traditional Chinese Medicinal Views:
Abalone is neutral in nature, tastes lightly sweet and mildly salty. It nourishes through the liver meridian, preserves blood, soothes the liver, nourishes ‘yin’, relieves internal heat, replenishes vital energy and improves visual acuity. “Ri Yong Ben Cao” mentions abalone can replenish energy and stimulate ‘qi’. Abalone is able to repress hyperactive liver ‘yang’, dissipate internal heat and improve visual acuity, quench thirst and relieve strain. It is most effective in healing adverse charging of liver heat, lightheadedness and hectic fever. The abalone shell is a kind of famous traditional Chinese medicine called “Shi Jue Ming”. It was written on ancient Chinese literature that abalone shell is called “Qian Li Guang” because it has the effect of improving visual acuity. “Shi Jue Ming” has the efficacy of dissipating internal heat and improving visual acuity, repressing hyperactive liver and internal wind; it can cure lightheadedness and convulsion of hands and feet or spasm due to fever.
Nutritional Analysis
1.Abalone contains rich proteins and lots of nutritional constituents such as calcium, iron, iodine and vitamin A.
2.The meat of abalone contains a kind of constituents called “Abalone essence” which can destroy the indispensable metabolite of unhealthy cells.
3.Abalone can preserve ‘yin’, repress hyperactive liver and nourish kidney. It is effective in balancing the adrenal glands and maintaining healthy blood pressure.
4.Abalone regulates menses, relieves dryness and fortifies intestinal function; it is helpful to irregularity of menstruation and constipation.
5.Abalone is capable of nourishing ‘yin’ and supplementing vital energy. It is a kind of nourishing seafood which does not develop extra internal heat.
To conclude, abalone nourishes but does not develop extra internal heat, is a suitable health enhancing food for any age group of either gender at the year round.

Classification
Abalone is classified according to its storage method:
Based on its storage method, abalone can be classified into 5 categories: fresh abalone, frozen abalone, dried abalone, canned abalone and instant abalone.


Assessment
Owing to the variety of abalones and their wide range price difference, unethical businessmen concentrate their profit-making efforts in dried abalone and canned abalone products.
Fake dried abaloneUnethical businessmen use dried chiton to imitate dried abalone. The meat of dried chiton is thinner and will shrink and curl up after sun-dried. The rim of its feet is rough. A piece of shell plate is connected to the middle of its back but will be peeled off during sun-dried process, leaving a prominent mark. So, be careful of abalone that bears prominent mark on its back which may be a fake.
Mexican “Wheel” canned abaloneThere are many fake products in the market which can even cheat professionals. Therefore, buy products at reputable shops so as to avoid money loss.

Q&A
1.How to store abalone?
Different abalone has different storage method:
Fresh abaloneIt’s better to eat it right away, otherwise keep it in the freezer
Dried abaloneWrap and seal abalone with plastic bag or newspaper and keep it in the refrigerator. If not affected by damp, it can be kept for about half to one year.
Canned abaloneStore unopened can in a dry, shady and cool place. For abalone taken out from opened can, contain it in soup, seal up and store in the refrigerator. It should be finished as soon as possible so as to avoid dry aging, losing its original flavour.
Instant abaloneSealed instant abalone can be kept in a dry, shady and cool place. For unsealed instant abalone, contain it in soup, seal up and store in the refrigerator. It should be finished as soon as possible so as to avoid dry aging, losing its original flavour.
2.What preparation work is needed before cooking abalone?
Different types of abalone require different preparation work before cooking:
Fresh abaloneRemove the intestines and internal organs, brush clean and rinse
Frozen abaloneThaw the frozen abalone, clear off the intestines and internal organs, brush clean and rinse. Flap both sides of abalone meat using the flank of a chopper so that the meat becomes tender. Blanch abalone together with ginger and shallot to remove abalone’s fishy smell, but take note that the tissue of fresh or frozen abalone will shrink abruptly once it makes contact with boiled water which may lead to occurrence of fissures and coming off of the skirt, affecting its appearance. Therefore, it is advisable to put abalone into cool or lukewarm water when blanching.
Dried abalone
Dried abalone has to be soaked first before serving because of its stiff texture. There are 2 soaking methods:
a.Water cooking: Soak dried abalone in cool water first for about 24 hours. Then brush off the attached sands, rinse, and put in a pot containing boiled water and simmer for about 1 to 2 hours. Turn off the fire and braise for a further 5 to 6 hours.
b.Steaming : Clean the dried abalone and put it in a bowl. Steam inside a bamboo steamer for about 5 to 6 hours.
Canned abalone

Abalone can be served once the can is opened or heat first before serving. If hot serving is preferred, serve abalone with hot starch thickener so as to prevent the abalone meat from becoming aging and tough after reheating.

Instant abaloneEat immediately after unsealed or heat abalone first before consumption.
3.What needs to be paid attention when cooking abalone?
Fresh abalone
Fresh abalone has light taste and requires seasoning to bring out its original flavour. During the cooking of abalone, heating control is crucial: underheating will make abalone have fishy taste; overheating will cause abalone meat to become stiff and tough.
Since the tissue of fresh abalone will shrink abruptly once it makes contact with boiled water which may lead to occurrence of fissures and coming off of the skirt, affecting its appearance, it is advisable to put abalone into cool or lukewarm water before cooking starts.
Frozen abaloneThe tissue of fresh or frozen abalone will shrink abruptly once it makes contact with boiled water which may lead to occurrence of fissures and coming off of the skirt, affecting its appearance. Therefore, it is advisable to put abalone into cool or lukewarm water when blanching.
Dried abaloneThe original taste of dried abalone is light, it is therefore necessary to simmer the dried abalone together with thick soup or clear water and other ingredients which have thick and strong flavour, so that the dried abalone can absorb their flavour to enhance its own taste. In this way, the abalone meat will become tender and its original delicious taste can be retained.
Canned abaloneAging of abalone meat progresses with the cooking time of canned abalone. Therefore, pay attention to the cooking time and heating control, avoid overheating.
4.Is abalone suitable for consumption to any person?
Abalone is nourishing but does not develop internal heat, it is a suitable health enhancing food for any age group of either gender all the year round. However, the following group of people must take note:
1.Patients with gout or high uric acid are not suitable to eat abalone
2.People having a cold or fever, ‘yin’ deficiency and sore throat must not eat abalone
3.Diabetic patient can use abalone as assisting food therapy, but it has to be stewed with prescribed Chinese medicine to become effective.
4.People having stubborn ringworm chronic illness are not suitable to eat abalone.
5.Why stomach aches after taking abalone?
Abalone contains plentiful proteins which are hard to digest, especially when the abalone is in the state of half done. It should always be well done before serving. People with weak stomach are prone to having stomach ache when taking abalone.
6.How to cook abalone?
Different abalone has different way of cooking:
Fresh abaloneIts meat is most fresh, good for cooking, stir-frying and steaming
Frozen abaloneThe texture of abalone may be damaged after freezing, causing lesser chewy mouth-feel. It is therefore mostly used for making soup. After the soup is done, slice the abalone and serve with soy or oyster sauce.
Dried abaloneBoth preparation work and cooking process are complicated and time-consuming; it is mainly used in making precious dish.
Canned abalone

Abalone can be served once the can is opened or heat first before serving. It is also suitable for cold serving or stir-frying. If hot serving is preferred, serve abalone with hot starch thickener so as to prevent the abalone meat from becoming aging and tough after reheating.
Instant abaloneEat immediately after unsealed or heat abalone first before consumption.