Good Food Blog
A is for abalonePosted at 10:04AM, 19 April 2010 by Katy Greenwood - Food writer
Have you ever seen an abalone? They're a weird and wonderful shellfish that are a delicacy in many parts of the world, but not so common in the UK. Have you eaten abalone before? I have, once, as sushi very early at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. It was a memorable experience, in that I remember it wasn't very nice; extremely chewy (it made a crunch sound when bitten into) and pretty tasteless. So when I was asked to test a recipe using these funny looking molluscs I wasn't particularly looking forward to sinking my teeth into them again.
I didn't particularly fancy eating canned mollusc, but recipes must be tested and my work must be done
To start with getting hold of some wasn't as simple as popping to the nearest supermarket, and the moody fishmonger didn't fancy sourcing me any either. Thus it was a trip to China Town for me, where I was assured I could get them in a can. I didn't particularly fancy eating canned mollusc, but recipes must be tested and my work must be done, so off to Gerard Street I went. At first I couldn't find my prize anywhere. Finally I was directed behind the counter in one of the shops, where a 400g can of abalone sat, next to the booze and some strange Chinese medicines with things that looked like insects in them.
"Excellent" I said, "How much are they?"
"£29." Came the deadpan reply.
My jaw dropped, I was speechless.
Now I knew that abalone were expensive, as they're one of those things that you see on the menu at Chinese restaurants and it says "Market Price", so you know you can't afford them, but the idea of paying £29 for something in a can was astounding. It made me slightly hysterical and I had to momentarily leave the shop to regain my composure. When I went back in a few minutes later I was greeted by amused Chinese faces, but I couldn't work out whether they were amused that I had had to leave the shop before I felt I could buy their can of abalone, or that I was fool enough to pay so much for something in a tin.
Back home in my kitchen I opened the can with trepidation. I knew there would be abalone inside, but the sheer size of the two molluscs that plopped out of the can was astounding, they were huge. I have no idea how they squeezed them in there. I even took a picture.
After that it was pretty much plain sailing. The abalone sliced like butter and the recipe was so easy. Then the tasting, would my monster molluscs be as bad as the first time I tried them? I'm happy to report that they weren't. They were a little bit chewy, but this time there was no crunch. In fact it was a really tasty Chinese dish.
I can now truthfully say that I'm a fan of the abalone, and if you get the chance you should give them a try, though at £29 for a can it's unlikely I'll be eating them again anytime soon.