It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
Abalone is the name given to the biological family of large marine gastropod mollusks--which in layman's terms means sea snail. In Australia and Great Britain, they are commonly known as ear-shells, sea ears, mutton fish or muttonshells.
Abalone are also defined as any large edible sea snail of the genus Halotis. They are characterized by an ear-shaped shell with a row of holes along the outer edge. They also have a colorful, pearly interior, which is commonly used to create mother of pearl ornaments as well.
Their colours vary from dark blue and lavender and green to even brick red. And these creatures feast on algae and seaweed; cabezon fish, moray eels, crabs, octopi and sea otters often prey on them. For the most part, these creatures can be found along coastal waters of almost any continent, barring the Atlantic coast of South America, the Caribbean and the East Coast of United States. The majority of the species are found in colder waters though, such as the coasts of New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, and Alaska.
The meat of abalone is rich, flavorful and extremely expensive. In fact, the appreciation and consumption was so high that they were almost driven to the brink of extinction until the farming of abalone for consumption purposes began more recently. This farmed abalone is much more readily available today than the wild variety for which one actually has to go diving! It's illegal to sell or dive for wild abalone without adhering to rules that require both a license and the diver to stick to only one specific area.
Once tenderized though, the meat of abalone is best described as a cross between scallops and foie gras. However, without slow cooking, abalone can have the texture of worn-out rubber! Hence, preparation techniques are precise and severely important when making an abalone dish. This delicacy is popular in Southeast Asia, where snail dishes are reserved for extremely special occasions. As such, they're something like the caviar of the Western world and demand an exorbitant market price too!
There are many ways to eat it, including in sushi form, steamed, salted, boiled, chopped or even simmered in soy sauce. And if rumors are to be believed, it's equally delicious in whichever form it's consumed! Interestingly enough, it's one of the least-tried delicacies around the world. So perhaps it's time to start changing that now!
-Pictures courtesy Thinkstock-
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