20 Mar Featured Food: All About Abalone
Abalone. They’re tasty. They’re exquisite. They’re known for the thrills in diving for them.
For years, abalone have been a prized delicacy. Famed for their colourful shells and difficulty in diving for, these unique-looking sea creatures have become a status symbol, regarded as one of the most luxurious things to eat from the sea.
Pronounced ab-ah-LOW-nee, abalone is commonly referred to as an ear shell or sea snail, but more importantly, abalone is now known for making its way to The Asian’s kitchen this April.
Before we experience its delicate flavours, let’s take a moment to explore just what makes abalone so sought after.
Just what is abalone?
Essentially, abalone is a huge sea snail that lives on the rocks in the shallows of the ocean. More technically, it’s a gastropod mollusk in the Haliotidae family (we don’t really know what that means either, but it sounds impressive).
Abalones are a univalve, which means they have a protective shell on one side of their bodies. The other side firmly attaches to the rocky surface below by their ‘foot,’ feeding on algae.
How to catch abalone
Diving for abalone has become a recreational thrill. This dangerous past time sees divers spend up to six hours a day underwater, braving wild weather, wild currents, natural elements, rock beds, masses of kelp, rough seas, decompression sickness, and the ocean’s greatest predator; great white sharks.
The dangers were evident in 2011 when a WA abalone diver was fatally mauled in South Australian waters during filming of the series Abalone Wars. Further to this, in 2017 one man was diving for abalone east of Esperance when a shark bit his head and left him needing 10 hours of surgery.
Although the risks are plenty, the rewards are sweet, with divers describing the hunt as “fantastic, fun and very rewarding.”
Why is abalone so popular?
The combination of overfishing, marine heatwaves, unlawful harvesting and trafficking have seen a decline in wild abalone. This fragile marine resource is now in such high demand, the price of abalone has soared. For example, in Hong Kong, dried Abalone can sell for as much as $5,000 for 500grams!
As this seafood delicacy has been overfished in so many countries, coastlines along Australia and New Zealand are some of the only remaining regions with relatively healthy wild stock.
As abalone is a lucrative business, this makes them attractive to poachers and illegal fishing remains a problem throughout the seas. According to WA Department of Fisheries, around 3 tonnes of abalone are collected illegally each year on the state’s south coast alone.
Hey, Good Looking
On the exterior, the ear-shaped shells of abalone are unremarkable; rough and flat in texture and appearance. In stark contrast, the inside of the shell is a spectacular mother of pearl, protecting the soft flesh of the abalone from damage.
Abalone have rows of small holes or ‘pores’ that run along the edge of their shells. As abalone grow, these holes progressively close-up, with usually only the last four to six holes remaining open when they reach full-size.
In taste, abalone has a sublime flavour. Buttery and slightly salty, there’s a delicate chewiness to it, described as a cross between a scallop and squid.
Facts about Green Lip Abalone
It is available to you for lunch or dinner daily in The Asian this April.
So, without further ado, we present to you, Green Lip abalone in Oyster Sauce with Broccoli… it might just be your next favourite dish.