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The Abalone in Chinese Cooking


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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 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.

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.

Try these recipes, they are not some Fear Factor slugs, trust me!
1) Braised Abalone with Sea Cucumber and Chinese Mushroom
2) Quickfried Abalone with Chinese Mushroom
3) Abalone in Oyster Sauce
4) Abalone with Asparagus
5) Oyster Sauce Abalone with Lettuce

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.