Abalone is a strange and rarely-seen ocean delicacy that demands a high price, but what does it taste like?
Abalone might be flesh inside of a shell, quite like an oyster, but it reportedly doesn’t taste anything like one. Allegedly, abalone tastes like something between squid and a scallop, with a salty and buttery taste. It’s remarkably delicious and has a very distinct flavor.
Read on to learn more about the mysterious and sought-after abalone, and why it’s so expensive.
Great If You Can Get It
For the average person, abalone won’t be something that ever crosses their palate. It’s not only expensive but dramatically rare and considerably exclusive.
However, it’s not just obtaining it that’s the issue; most people aren’t even aware of its existence. It’s an almost never-seen delicacy that originates from specific oceans and bodies of water around the world.
If we were to describe abalone as simply as possible, we’d say it’s a snail – a sea snail, to be specific. The scientific name for it is a ‘mollusk’, but it’s a far cry from any stock-standard ocean-dwelling snail.
Abalone is an extremely expensive delicacy, often costing as much as fifty dollars for a single snail. However, the finest examples can run up costs that double or even triple that figure.
It’s said to have a very unique and distinct flavor, similar to both squid and scallops. Reportedly, abalone has a delicious taste, and the consistency and texture are similar to calamari, just on a larger scale.
There have been some odd comparisons made in recent years, such as in an interview with the BBC. One New Zealand abalone fisherman explained that abalone was more like a steak than shellfish in how it tasted and felt in the mouth.
The exclusivity surrounding abalone is driven primarily by how hard it is to obtain, and how regulated it is. It has been subjected to overfishing in many countries around the world, and eco-considerate laws have had to be drafted.
For example, in New Zealand, fishermen can only collect ten abalone per day, they must be licensed, and they cannot use any underwater breathing equipment.
The snails themselves are hard to spot, as they blend in exceptionally well among the rocks they cling to. They have a hard and equally sought-after shell on their back that protects, houses, and hides them.
Once they’re pried away from their ocean home, they’re prepared and potentially preserved, and readied for sale as fast as possible.
The market for abalone is so profit-driven that there have been instances of black markets rising up. The BBC estimated that just two-thirds of all abalone in the world was caught legally and under regulations.
It’s almost an axiomatic theory; when a material or product is popular and expensive, people will try to poach it and exploit its value. This is the same in many aspects, from animal skins and products, to food, or even technology.
Fortunately, as we’ve mentioned, abalone only naturally occurs in certain areas of the world. It’s primarily found on the shallow, colder shores of countries like New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, and Australia.
Reportedly, it’s red abalone that fetches the highest price in these black markets. It’s more endangered than standard abalone and much rarer.
An article on escoffier.edu explains that red abalone can demand a value of one-hundred dollars on the black market, for one inch of meat. They’re notoriously hard to find or catch, and often live in remarkably dangerous waters.
This article explains that red abalone can be found in areas north of San Francisco, where the waters are ‘cold and dark’. Reportedly, seven divers a year will die in San Francisco while hunting for abalone.
However, it’s ultimately worth the challenge when a single kilo of abalone can command prices of up to five-hundred dollars per kilo. They’re also a double-headed sale, as the shells are just as in demand as the flesh within them.
The shells are used decoratively and will be polished to a gleaming shine. They’re iridescent and deeply beautiful, boasting glittering streaks of blue, green, or purple.
If you’d like to try abalone for yourself, you should check out a reputable restaurant. There are websites like gayot.com that are dedicated to breaking down the top restaurants for certain delicacies.
Like beauty, the taste is often judged by the beholder.