Other Common Names: Awabi (Japan), Muttonfish (Australia), Ormer (English Channel), Paua (New Zealand)
Range & Habitat: Pacific coasts (California to Chile), Indo-Pacific coasts (Asia, Japan, Africa), English Channel, Mediterranean Sea
Identification & Biology A large, ear-shaped univalve mollusk with iridescent shell protecting body and foot like adductor muscle with which it moves and cling to rocks. Abalone ranges from 6 inches to 1 foot in length and weighs from 4 to 8 lbs.
Market Description: Only the adductor muscle is edible. The mild, sweet-flavored white meat must be tenderized to soften the naturally tough, rubbery texture.
Sold as: Fresh steaks; frozen steaks; canned, minced or cubed (from Japan); dried; salted; dried and shredded (called kaiho; from Japan); dried and powdered (called meiho; from Japan)
Buying Tips: Abalone is best purchased alive, with an adductor muscle that moves when touched. Choose small specimens that smell sweet rather than fishy. Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase; cook within 24 hours.
Recommended Preparation: It is essential to gently tenderize the meat by with a rolling pin or mallet. Abalone can be eaten raw, cubed or cut into strips and prepared as a salad. It is often briefly sautéed in butter (20 to 30 seconds per side), or seasoned and lightly coated with flour and egg and pan-fried. Try to avoid overcooking, which toughens the meat.
Notes: California law prohibits canning and out-of-state shipping of fresh or frozen abalone. Preyed upon by sea otters, large Pacific abalones are becoming scarce. The iridescent shell of the abalone is a source of mother-of-pearl. The meat is very popular in Chinese and Japanese cooking. It is often prepared raw as sushi or sashimi.