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Best Abalone Recipes

Best Abalone Recipes


Abalone Shopping Tips

Seafood shopping is quite easy in the general sense. Rule of thumb: if it smells fishy, don't buy. Fresh seafood should smell mild and more like the ocean and sea water rather than fish.

Abalone Cooking Tips

Looking for a quick mid-week dinner? Seafood is a safe bet. It's quick to cook and simple recipes can get dinner on the table in 20 minutes.


How to Prepare Abalone for Cooking

Abalone is famously delicious when prepared properly, considered kind of a cross between scallops and foie gras. When whole and raw, however, it is extremely tough. This mollusk is one solid muscle and needs some help relaxing into tenderness. Believe it or not, some people beat it with a baseball bat, while others stew it up and slow cook until tender. A preferred method is to slice it thinly and gently pound the slices a little thinner to break up the muscle just a bit, yielding rich and flavorful pieces.

Before you can begin slicing and tenderizing, you need to make sure the abalone is fresh, whole, removed from the shell, and cleaned.


Laura’s Best Recipes

Growing up on the coast of Northern California I so fortunate to have access to fresh abalone. It’s considered a culinary delicacy for good reason. When prepared correctly, it is mouth watering, tender and buttery. And when it’s not prepared correctly, it can be like dining on a Michelin tire! The key is to pound it to just the right thickness and to make sure you don’t overcook it. Additionally, prepare it the day it is caught for the best results. The abalone should be shucked from the shell and cleaned. Be sure to ask for the shells as they are very pretty and look nice on your patio table.

A very good friend of mine hooked me up with some fresh abalone during my last visit. A VERY good friend and his gift of two good-sized (and legal of course!) abalone made our trip! This is the best way to get it. You can buy farmed abalone, but it’s expensive, is usually pounded paper fine and lacks flavor.

I used this common preparation to make dinner for my husband … an abalone virgin! I’m sure there are many more sophisticated recipes out there… but sometimes simple is best and you’ll always win with this recipe.

Ingredients:

quantities are approximate and should be increased dependent upon amount of abalone

  • 1 fresh abalone – cleaned and sliced into small 3/4 inch steaks
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread
  • 3 teaspoons freshly grated parmesan *optional*
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley *optional*
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/4 cup milk (approx)
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • ground sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice sourdough bread down the middle and then cut in half. Place 1/4 of the bread on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven until golden (about 12-15 min). Use remainder of bread to serve with abalone – either garlic bread or just warmed with butter.

Place toasted bread pieces in food processor and blend until the bread is in crumbs. Add parsley and parmesan and blend until well-mixed. Make sure you’ve made enough bread crumbs for the amount of abalone you have and please DON’T use store bought canned crumbs as they have no flavor. If you’re lucky enough to get fresh abalone then take the time to make your own bread crumbs.

Add egg to small bowl and whisk until fluffy. Add milk and stir lightly until blended.

Create an assembly line to bread and fry your abalone quickly.

Place bread crumbs on plate next to egg bowl.

Heat a 10-12″ castiron or stainless steal skillet on medium high burner for about 2 minutes.

While skillet is heating up take one abalone steak and dip it in egg wash, then completely coat with bread crumbs.

Add a 3 count of oil to the preheated pan and when oil starts to shimmer. Lightly shake off excess bread crumbs. Add abalone. Fry until golden brown – approximately 20-50 seconds per side (depending upon thickness). Place cooked abalone steak on plate in oven at low/warm temperature (200 degrees) and repeat with remaining abalone. Keep a close watch and don’t get distracted while doing this or you may over cook the abalone or burn the bread crumbs.

Season lightly with sea salt and pepper.

Serve immediately with your favorite side dishes and very dry white wine like a California or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Take the time to plate your dishes with the sides prior to cooking the abalone so that you may serve it quickly without letting it sit.


Mouthwatering Pan Fried Abalone

Growing up on the coast of Northern California I so fortunate to have access to fresh abalone. It’s considered a culinary delicacy for good reason. When prepared correctly, it is mouth watering, tender and buttery. And when it’s not prepared correctly, it can be like dining on a Michelin tire! The key is to pound it to just the right thickness and to make sure you don’t overcook it. Additionally, prepare it the day it is caught for the best results. The abalone should be shucked from the shell and cleaned. Be sure to ask for the shells as they are very pretty and look nice on your patio table.

A very good friend of mine hooked me up with some fresh abalone during my last visit. A VERY good friend and his gift of two good-sized (and legal of course!) abalone made our trip! This is the best way to get it. You can buy farmed abalone, but it’s expensive, is usually pounded paper fine and lacks flavor.

I used this common preparation to make dinner for my husband … an abalone virgin! I’m sure there are many more sophisticated recipes out there… but sometimes simple is best and you’ll always win with this recipe.

Ingredients:

quantities are approximate and should be increased dependent upon amount of abalone

  • 1 fresh abalone – cleaned and sliced into small 3/4 inch steaks
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread
  • 3 teaspoons freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/4 cup milk (approx)
  • 1 TBSP butter and 2 TBSP olive oil (approx) or 50/50 oil-butter
  • ground sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice sourdough bread down the middle and then cut in half. Place 1/4 of the bread on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven until golden (about 12-15 min). Use remainder of bread to serve with abalone – either garlic bread or just warmed with butter.

Place toasted bread pieces in food processor and blend until the bread is in crumbs. Add parsley and parmesan and blend until well-mixed. Make sure you’ve made enough bread crumbs for the amount of abalone you have and please DON’T use store bought canned crumbs as they have no flavor. If you’re lucky enough to get fresh abalone then take the time to make your own bread crumbs.

Add egg to small bowl and whisk until fluffy. Add milk and stir lightly until blended.

Create an assembly line to bread and fry your abalone quickly.

Place bread crumbs on plate next to egg bowl.

Heat a 10-12″ castiron or stainless steal skillet on medium high burner for about 2 minutes.

While skillet is heating up take one abalone steak and dip it in egg wash, then completely coat with bread crumbs.

Add oil and butter to the preheated pan until oil just starts to shimmer. Lightly shake off excess bread crumbs. Add abalone. Fry until golden brown – approximately 20-50 seconds per side (depending upon thickness). Place cooked abalone steak on plate in oven at low/warm temperature (200 degrees) and repeat with remaining abalone. Keep a close watch and don’t get distracted while doing this or you may over cook the abalone or burn the bread crumbs.

Season lightly with sea salt and pepper.

Serve immediately with your favorite side dishes and very dry white wine like a California or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Take the time to plate your dishes with the sides prior to cooking the abalone so that you may serve it quickly without letting it sit.

mill fresh pine nuts or macadamia nuts instead of bread crumbs


5 Delicious Ways to Cook and Eat Live Abalone

Although there are more than 100 species of abalone around the world, they tend to feature less in European cuisine compared to other shellfish like mussels, scallops, pippies, oysters, clams and even marine snails like periwinkles. Australia alone is home to 18 species with 10 unique to the continent including the blacklip and greenlip abalone but they are rarely used in Australian cooking. They are more familiar and sought after in Cantonese, Japanese and Korean cuisine which understand and appreciate their light and sweet flavours.

Handling the abalone is actually as easy as cleaning and cooking mussels or periwinkles. I usually buy my live abalone at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne.

To prepare the abalone for cooking, all I do is slide a short-bladed knife around the edge between the shell and the flesh to remove the meat. I cut off the intestine and small piece of gristle at the head end and set them aside, as I do use them. Then trim off the frill and lip, cut a thin layer off the surface of the foot that attaches to the rocks and rinse and dry. For larger abalones, you may need to tenderise horizontally-cut pieces by pounding lightly with a meat mallet but this is not required for the live baby abalone. You are now ready to cook.

A classic method of preparation in the US involves breading and frying but the delicate flavour of the abalone is best when cooked simply, either as sashimi or sushi, steamed, grilled, stir-fried or blanched in soup stock. Here are 5 delicious ways to cook and eat the live abalone.

1). Steamed abalone Cantonese style

This style is best with baby abalones like the ones I usually consume at Nam Loong in Melbourne. The cleaned abalone is returned to the shell, garnished with julienne ginger and finely chopped garlic and steamed for 3 to 5 mins. A tablespoon of soy sauce mixed with hot oil, julienne spring onion and coriander is splashed over the abalone before serving.

2). Grilled abalone Japanese style

Grilling on a charcoal stove is one of the popular ways of cooking live baby abalone at fish market eateries around Japan. The entire abalone including innards is cooked in its own juices and then eaten with a soy, sake and ponzu dip.

3). Abalone sashimi and sushi

In Japan, the live baby abalone or awabi is prepared as sashimi and sushi where you can best enjoy its fresh and light crunchy sweetness with a little dash of soy and wasabi. You can also find larger versions prepared in the sashimi way but sliced paper-thin in Hong Kong-style restaurants.

4). Korean style abalone congee

The abalone congee or "jun bok jook" is most popular in South Korea. The abalone is clean and sliced into small pieces. They are added to rice and sesame oil, combined and slowly simmered to produce a light and sweet congee topped with chopped spring onion.

Abalone is regarded as a delicacy in Chinese cooking since the Ming Dynasty. In China, large abalone is cut into thin slices and thrown into a rich soup base of duck, chicken and winter melon.

The Cantonese-style live abalone in hotpot prepared by restaurants like Golden Century in Sydney simply blanch the abalone slices in a superior soup stock to bring out the flavours.


  • 1 (16 ounce) package linguine pasta
  • 2 pounds abalone without shell
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 (16 ounce) jar Alfredo sauce

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the linguine, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 11 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink.

Slice abalone into 1/2 inch slices. Place the abalone between two sheets of heavy plastic (resealable freezer bags work well) on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound the abalone with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Mix lime juice and garlic in a large bowl. Toss abalone slices and bell pepper in the lime garlic mixture to coat.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat and stir in the abalone and bell pepper, including the juice. Cook and stir until the cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the abalone slices and place on a plate and set aside. Continue cooking the peppers, until tender. Meanwhile, pour Alfredo sauce into a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until hot, stirring occasionally. Serve abalone over a bed of linguine and Alfredo sauce.


Side dishes or salads for abalone? Inspiration needed.

Help Chowhounds! I could use some inspiration: my dive clubs first campout/abalone feed of the year is the weekend, and I would like to bring at least one, probably two side dishes or salads to the potluck on Saturday night, and I would like it to be special, since I don't dive for abalone and thus will be enjoying the 'fruits' of my friends willingness to get cold and wet :-)

Here are the limitations: dessert is covered, so no need to bring that. nothing with rice (one of the other members traditionally brings a rice dish). Also, I will be able to cook the dish in a real kitchen (we are wimpy and not actually going to be in the campground), but would like something that will either keep for an hour or so at room temp and transport well, and/or that I could finish/reheat either over a campfire or a campstove. Finally, would prefer that at least one of the dishes be hot, since the weather doesn't look too wonderful for the weekend (not East Coast bad, just typical California North Coast rain and fog). It would be nice to have either a salad or vegie as one of the dishes also.

I've made cioppino with great success in the past but am not feeling quite that ambitious, mostly because I'd prefer to do my grocery shopping the day before, and that doesn't seem like it would fit with shellfish/seafood that should be very fresh.

so what does go with abalone, anyway? (we usually serve it two ways: fried in butter/flour, and grilled).


Crisp abalone steak

It is an odd spot for a miracle, this motley collection of beachfront shacks and sea-scoured concrete tanks clinging to a sunburned bluff above the Pacific just north of Morro Bay. But it’s hard to describe what is happening at the Abalone Farm any other way. Here, the abalone -- so rare in the wild that it is illegal to catch it commercially -- is making a comeback.

Consider this: Abalone is so tightly protected that it can legally be caught only by sport fishermen north of San Francisco Bay and only if the fishermen are free-diving, without breathing equipment. Anything else is illegal. And yet, abalone appears on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s list of “best choice” seafood. But only in its farmed form, of course, and that quite likely means that it comes from the Abalone Farm, which accounts for more than half of the fresh abalone eaten in this country.

Abalone was once considered a California icon, as much a part of summer as surfboards, cut-off jeans and bonfires at the beach. It was so common it could be collected from rocks exposed by low tides.

It is a marine gastropod (family haliotidae, genus Haliotis), a snail that lives in the sea. In fact, if you try to imagine a very big, very stylish snail sporting a streamlined shell that looks something like a ‘50s or ‘60s bathtub Porsche, you’ll be very close.

The part of the abalone that we eat is its large muscular foot. Raw, it is very tough. When eaten as sushi, this translates as a pleasing crunchiness. If it is to be cooked, abalone is almost always tenderized by pounding, just as you would flatten a scaloppine of veal or a chicken-fried steak. It must also be heated very quickly or it becomes rubbery.

Properly prepared, abalone has a texture that is nearly buttery. The flavor is beguiling, like a combination of a very sweet, very tender calamari steak with the lingering, subtle shellfish flavor we associate with oyster or crab.

It is no wonder people went so crazy for it. Still, it is a shame. In a relatively short span, abalone went from being almost as common as mussels to so overfished that only last-minute legislation and the intervention of advanced aquaculture could save it from oblivion.

But if you equate modern miracles with high technology, you’ll be disappointed in the Abalone Farm.

The shellfish are kept in a series of plastic buckets and tanks that are housed in what seem like a series of rickety boathouses and barracks. When the abalones are big enough, they graduate to the concrete tanks, roughly 4 feet square and divided by plywood walls.

Because abalones are relatively clean and well-behaved creatures, their aquaculture is regarded as a model of ecological sustainability. They live in seawater that is pumped from the bay below and are fed kelp that is harvested from the forest just beyond where the surf breaks, on dark red dulse seaweed that is grown at the farm and on naturally occurring algae that grow in the tanks.

“We’re very low-tech,” says Brad Buckley, the farm’s sales manager. “We’ve learned we have to work with the abalone on its own natural level. There are no glitzy shortcuts.”

The abalones don’t seem to mind. At any given time, the farm houses between 4 million and 6 million of them. They sell a million a year most goes to sushi bars in Southern California and the Bay Area, but about a third is shipped to Asia.

As rustic as the setting might be, the Abalone Farm is thoroughly modern when it comes to getting its product out. Almost every day an overnight delivery truck pulls up the dirt road to pick up a load of abalone. Orders placed before noon by phone or on the website can be delivered anywhere in the country the next day.

A couple of times a week, another truck comes in and picks up big loads to be delivered to wholesalers, like Chol Pak’s Pacific Fresh Fish Co. downtown, which sells to Southern California sushi bars and markets such as Assi Market in Koreatown. Because of its scarcity, fresh abalone is extravagantly expensive. Ready-to-cook steaks from the Abalone Farm run about $100 a pound (enough for six to eight moderate servings).

Pak says Koreans like abalone as sashimi and also as an ingredient in rice porridge called jeonbok-juk. Another steady customer is the classic Pico Rivera steakhouse Dal Rae, which serves them either “almodine” or served with caper sauce or lemon butter (a $52 entree).

Although the flavor is the same, old-timers who remember wild abalone as big as dinner plates are not likely to be impressed by the size of these farmed specimens. Most are harvested when they’re about as big as your palm. A few super-achievers are as big as your entire hand. The abalones range in weight from 3 1/2 ounces to 8 ounces, which will yield 1- to 2-ounce steaks.

It takes an abalone four years to get to this size, and that is considered the prime of its growth spurt. It may take five or six years more for an abalone to add an extra inch or two. Those hubcap-size monsters you see in old pictures had to have been 40 or 50 years old.

Abalone has been eaten in California for centuries, if not millenniums. Abalone shells are common in coastal middens, ancient garbage dumps left by Native Americans.

The first commercial abalone fishermen were the Chinese, who, beginning in the 1850s, dried them and shipped them back home. In the early part of the 20th century, the Japanese took over and used their advanced knowledge of early deep-sea diving techniques to harvest them more efficiently.

But it wasn’t until after World War II and Jacques Cousteau’s popularization of scuba equipment, which permitted even deeper, less restricted dives and extended stays under water, that fishermen were able to go after abalone in a really big way.

The commercial fishery peaked in 1957 with a harvest of more than 5 million pounds. Beginning in the late 1960s, the bottom fell out. By 1992 the total harvest was 500,000 pounds. Two years later it was 322,000 pounds.

Prices rose with the increasing scarcity. What a diver could get for 100 dozen abalone in the early 1960s he might get for 10 dozen in the 1970s and for a dozen in the 1980s. With that kind of money at stake -- it’s estimated that at its peak abalone brought in $20 million a year -- the fishery was very hard to regulate. (It still is, though for different reasons: Last month Fish and Game nabbed a couple of poachers by Mendocino with more than 400 abalones in their truck.)

Looking at a graph of abalone landings is like looking at a ball bouncing on a tabletop. For a couple of decades it goes up and down but always maintains a certain minimum level. Then the ball reaches the edge and drops straight down to the floor.

What happened is what biologists call serial depletion.

The abalone family is made up of several varieties, some more desirable than others, some easier to catch than others. As the most desirable, easiest to harvest abalones disappeared, they’d be replaced in the statistics by those that were less desirable and harder to catch. You start out collecting abalones at low tide in Venice and wind up deep-diving for them off the Channel Islands.

Finally, there was almost nothing left.

Gradually, between 1993 and 1997, the commercial abalone fishery in California was shut down.

As guilty as man was in the abalone’s demise, there is no escaping the fact that the shellfish is partly to blame as well. In fact, it seems nearly miraculous that it has survived as long as it has.

In many of the ways that matter most, abalones are extremely inefficient, particularly when it comes to reproducing. They are what are called broadcast spawners, which means they release eggs and sperm into the water when the ocean conditions are just right, regardless of whether another abalone is close by. To produce fertilized eggs, they must truly get lucky.

Because abalones prefer to live in colonies, this usually isn’t a big problem. But in a depleted population with males and females scattered farther apart, there are markedly fewer chances of one abalone’s being close enough to another to mate successfully.

In this way, a bad situation becomes worse with almost lightning speed.

Furthermore, though abalones are fecund (a mature female may produce more than 10 million eggs at a time), they are remarkably unsuccessful as parents. Only a fraction of a percentage of fertilized eggs actually makes it to maturity in the wild.

The Abalone Farm is considered extremely successful with a survivability rate of between 15% and 20%. Such success in nature would soon mean abalones as common as garden snails.

That would be even truer in the absence of natural predators. And that is pretty close to the situation abalones enjoyed from the middle of the 19th century until the modern fishery started.

Ecologists point out that just as the current abalone situation is the result of an extreme imbalance, so was the period of plenty that preceded it. Abalones were so common only because their main predator, the sea otter, had been nearly exterminated by the fur trade.

Cute and cuddly as they are, otters eat abalone like popcorn. A 60-pound sea otter can consume a quarter of its weight in abalone in a day. And the resurgence of sea otter populations south of San Francisco in the 1970s was a factor in the devastation of the abalone population.

The Department of Fish and Game’s Abalone Recovery and Management Plan puts it plainly: “The influence of sea otter predation on abalone populations is so strong that sport and commercial abalone fisheries cannot co-exist with established sea otter populations.”

(In fact, it adds: “Abalone populations in [S]outhern California are so depleted that the addition of sea otters predation could pose a serious threat to the abalone’s continued survival.”)

For the foreseeable future, anyway, the abalone most of us eat will have to come from aquaculture. California licenses eight abalone farms, though most of these are either still in the research stage or are extremely small.

After the Abalone Farm, which sells about 225,000 pounds of abalone a year, the next biggest is the Cultured Abalone in Goleta, which sells about 100,000 pounds a year. US Abalone in Davenport sells about 75,000 pounds a year. The Monterey Abalone Co. in Monterey Bay sells about 50,000 pounds a year.

One of the smallest but most interesting abalone farms is in Oxnard. Proteus Seafarms works out of what looks like a converted maintenance garage in the shadow of Reliant Energy’s giant Ormond Beach Generating Station.

Proteus has only about 20,000 abalones in its tanks, but these are white abalones, so rare they were declared an endangered species in 2001 (most farms raise the red variety). White abalone was once the most highly sought food variety because it is so naturally tender it doesn’t need to be pounded.

But it is extremely hard to find, even in the best circumstances.

In fact, it wasn’t even discovered until more sophisticated diving equipment became available in the 1940s because it lives only in depths of greater than 80 feet. Once it was found, it was avidly fished. It is estimated that the number of white abalone has declined 99% in the last 25 years.

Because white abalone are so scarce and live so deep, current estimates of the population are all over the map, ranging from 3,000 animals to 15,000.

But even the best-case scenario still means that Proteus has more white abalones in its garage than live in the entire Pacific Ocean.

Proteus director Thomas McCormick says he hopes next year to be able to release the first mature white abalones back into the wild, with the help of California Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary. After that, his goal is to be able to plant 5,000 a year.

Proteus is a nonprofit corporation, and McCormick’s primary goal is research. Asked about the white abalone’s potential for food, he almost blanches, but he understands. It goes with the territory when you’re trying to resurrect one of the ocean’s most delectable creatures.

“One of the things about the white abalone is that we really don’t know anything about it other than it tastes good,” he says. “It was revered. The fishermen always kept white abalone for their own consumption because it was so tender.

“What we’re trying to do is slowly build a new population structure. But I don’t know whether we’ll ever see a self-sustaining population again.”


Julia Childs and Creamed Paua | Abalone Recipe

I recall seeing an image of Julia Childs kitchen where the walls of her pastel palace were lovingly painted by her dotting husband in all the shapes of her kitchen utensils. From spatulas to whisks, potato ricers to saucepans. Every piece of equipment that Julia used was painted in its silhouette shape on the walls of her galley.

The reason for this? Julia had a regular stream of eager dishwashers who were more than happy to help her with the days washing up in return for just being able to spend time in her legendary culinary presence. With so many hands, the work was certainly lightened, but the utensils were often out-of-place.

Such was the frustration of Julia who couldn’t find a pair of kitchen shears when she needed them, her husband had the brilliant idea of painting the shapes of all her ustensile de cuisine on the walls so enthusiastic washers always knew where to put everything. Everything in its place and a place for everything.

I too have dreamt about everything in its place and a place for everything though I wouldn’t go as far as to painting kitchen murals. I have tried internal labelling of cupboards and shelves, run impromptu workshops with my kids on where things live in the kitchen and have cleaned out and tidied drawers more times than I care to remember. Yet still, on many occasions when I am cooking, I play the game “now if I was a cheese grater, where would I be?” Or a melon baller, or an apple corer, potato peeler, paring knife, lid to the stock pot et al. You get the idea.

This recipe for creamed paua, was as to be expected, no exception. The problem with creamed paua, (pronounced par-wah) and this is the only problem I have ever experienced with this recipe aside from running out of its dreaminess, is that you need a food processor for this to work. Or better still, as my Mother and Grandmother used to have, a mincer. My mother had the -old school attach to your bench with a metal vice style mincer. It was retro grade marble green and came complete with a hand crack to turn you whole foods into ground ones. One of the only times it showed its ability in our house was when paua, or abalone was on the menu.

I would love to get my hot little hands on that mincer but its whereabouts has long been forgotten. I’m happy enough with my food processor, though its presence on my bench does not leave the same memory imprint as Mums’s green mincer did, but I’m grateful for its convenience and mince ability. That is, when you can find it.

I’m not sure how one can misplace the large bowl or an extra-large food processor, especially given that the placement of said food processor is on a shelf, where it has lived for the last 3 years, in my butlers pantry (aka, the laundry). I’m not prepared to give up and give in to my well meaning dishwashers in frustration, but this incident when preparing the paua for this dish was a frustrating passage of time.

You need a food processor with a strong engine and sharp blade, or if you are utensil-y endowed, a bench top mincer, in order to get the paua into very small pieces that are verging on a coarse mince. The paua foot muscle is the part of the mollusc that is consumed, so being a muscle that it is used to propel itself through water and attach to rocks that are constantly being battered by strong deep-sea ocean currents, the meat is rather tough.

The temporary loss of my food processor bowl meant that I was considering chopping the paua meat into mince by hand, a prospect that was making me a little testy. With the help of my cat whose job was to mellow me out by swanning in and out of my legs as I stomped around the house, I managed to locate the bowl after almost giving up, by looking in the least obvious place. “If I was a rather large food processor bowl, where would I be?” In the garage of course! Why I didn’t check the least obvious place first, I will never know.

With bowl in hand and only an additional 5 minutes spent locating the missing food processor blade, I managed to mince the paua in 10 seconds. Julia would be proud.

What is Paua or Abalone?

Paua is a marine mollusc and a type of sea snail. It has one beautiful iridescent shell that were once commonly used as ashtrays in New Zealand, so much so that they have become part of our kiwi vernacular and beach living lifestyles, the paua shell ashtray. Around the world the pretty shell is also used to make various types of jewellery and back home in New Zealand we Maori people have been using paua shell for centuries in our wooden carvings of people and creatures where the shell becomes the insert for the eyes.

The paua meat can vary in colour depending on where it was harvested from, with New Zealand’s paua being deep grey to inky black with a green hue. The paua grows on the side of rocks in the ocean with traditional paua beds highly guarded and prized. Sadly the paua population always takes a hammering along New Zealand coasts by poachers who illegal gather paua to sell on the black market. Paua is a highly prized commodity in many countries where its value can soar in excess of $500 a kilo at the markets.

The problem with poachers and illegal gathering or over fishing means that the paua stock is unable to naturally regenerate each season as the beds are being stripped bare making reproduction and sustainability impossible. Our hard-working coastguards and fisheries officers are doing a great job in catching and apprehending illegal poachers, but with a country the length of New Zealand that is 100% surrounded by ocean, it is a mammoth task to police the entire shoreline. Thankfully the locals are also starting to keep a watch out for poachers as we are becoming more and more acutely aware of the longterm damage they are doing to traditional food gathering areas.

What does it taste like?

The flavour of paua is very distinct. It’s oceanic and salty, but well balanced at the same time with a sweet and buttery palate. It’s cooked texture is somewhere between a scallop and calamari so it benefits from longer cooking to make it tender or short bursts of heat to just cook it. Mincing is another method that helps to keep the meat soft and the combination of thickened cream and fine mince is a delicacy to Maori the world over. It’s also a great way of making a little go a long way, a skill that we have to put into action so that we don’t over fish or deplete our traditional paua gathering beds.

With paua and this recipe especially, a little really does go a long way. Thanks to the cream and the natural flavour of the paua this dish is very rich and is best served as a side dish as part of a larger meal and its how we serve it at my own family feasts. One large paua about the side of your hand will feed 2-3 people as a side.


Chinese braised abalone with mushrooms - for a celebration

This dish is good to serve during the Lunar New Year holiday because it’s full of expensive, auspicious ingredients that are supposed to bring wealth and happiness. It’s not difficult to make, but it does take a long time, so spread the work out over at least two days. In restaurants, it would be made with dried abalone - which is extremely expensive, and not easy to prepare, but I’ve substituted fresh abalone.

Don't bother cooking this if you're not going to make the superior stock: it's a waste of expensive ingredeints if you use canned broth or chicken powder. You need a soup chicken - a larger, older hen that's very tough, but which, when simmered for many hours, yields a flavourful broth.

You can buy fresh abalone from wet markets but I prefer the larger, frozen variety that come from Australia or South Africa. If using small, fresh abalone, buy one per person and have the vendor clean them for the larger ones, buy three or four weighing about 150 grams each, then slice them when they're thawed.

Chinese ham is heavily salted then air-dried, so it's dense and flavourful. For the stock, buy the cheaper scraps and bones, but for cooking with the abalone, pick a nice, tidy piece.


Watch the video: How to cook abalone?Steamed Abalone. #cooking Erma Dulay