Abalone is one of the rarest and most expensive sea delicacies in the world. Why do their shells have holes?
The holes in an abalone shell serve a number of purposes. They’re used for breathing, reproduction, and for the removal of waste. The holes themselves change over the course of the abalone’s life, either closing up or being made bigger.
Read on to learn more about this mysterious and rare ocean food.
Abalone In The Ocean
It’s likely you’ll have never heard of abalone if you’re not a fan of seafood. They’re not the kind of thing you’d immediately think of eating at a seafood restaurant.
In essence, abalone is a sea snail, large in size, and permanently attached to a hard shell. They live exclusively underwater and are apparently an extremely sought-after delicacy.
If the idea of eating raw fish disturbs you, then look away now. In some cultures, abalone is eaten raw – straight from the shell.
They’re quite odd in appearance, with the fleshy part of the abalone having no real structure. The consistency and appearance of abalone flesh is comparable to fresh mussels.
One of the interesting things about abalone is that the shell isn’t always discarded after consumption. They’re often beautiful to look at, unique in appearance, and make for great decoration.
They can take on marvelous colors but often portray iridescent blues, greens, and purples. When polished, they shine brightly and look more like a gemstone than a seafood shell.
There are many factors that go into the appearance, quality, and availability of abalone. They’re considerably rare in general, owing to their lack of global availability.
Abalone only exists in a few areas of the world, typically where the ocean is cold. They can be found off the coast of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and Japan.
However, there have been attempts to farm abalone as far back as the 1950s.
The rarest types of abalone found in the ocean are known as ‘imperforates’. The rarity stems from the fact that they have no holes in their shells at all.
This is particularly bizarre when you consider the function of these holes. They’re used primarily for respiration, but also reproduction, and the excretion of waste.
Snail In the Pot
There are many ways to prepare – and eat – abalone. You can eat them cold, straight off the shell, or cook them in a number of ways.
However, like some other species of seafood, abalone is almost always cooked alive. The freshest abalone is alive, right up to the moment it’s taken out of the pot.
Of course, the fresh and rare abalone is the most expensive. The finest examples demand a high price in restaurants, owing to the difficulties in obtaining and transporting them.
Sadly, it’s estimated that more than half of the abalone coming out of South Africa is illegally sourced – or poached. This is the case with many sought-after delicacies around the world.
Another aspect that contributes to the high cost of abalone is how it’s fished. It can’t be simply collected by a trawler, or a net, but must be handpicked individually by a diver.
In the United States, a kilo of abalone will regularly cost around five hundred dollars. However, you need to bear in mind that this will only yield around two hundred and fifty grams of meat.
Seafood and Eat It
Abalone isn’t alone in the expensive seafood stakes. There are many forms of ocean-based delicacies that will easily break the bank.
Then there are items like caviar, otherwise known as ‘roe’, made from the eggs of particular fish. There’s also the fugu, a rare and potentially toxic pufferfish, prepared almost exclusively in Japan.
You can also find particular oysters, types of salmon, and lobster running a high price. It’s quite often the case that the harder the seafood is to obtain, the more expensive it will be to eat.
Abalone certainly tops this chart, considering outside of farms, it can only be obtained by dedicated divers.