Abalones are also known as ear shells or sea ears. They are called awabi when prepared for sushi. Abalone is considered by many to be the greatest delicacy of all the shellfish. It is prized not only for its taste, but for its beautiful ear shaped shell which can grow up to 12 inches long. It’s common market size is about 4- 7 inches. The outside of the shell is dull but the inside is iridescent with colors ranging from silvery-white to pink, red or green, depending on its diet. The shell is used for decoration and jewelry and is the source of “mother of pearl”.
The abalone is found wild in the United States only on the California coast. California has very strict regulations that include licensing and tight harvesting restrictions. Commercial fishing for abalone in California was closed in 1997. Most of the abalone found on the market today is farmed, with China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan being the major contributors. It is very slow growing taking 3 to 4 years to reach market size.
It’s foot-like organ is the only part that is edible and it is very tough if not tenderized. It must be sliced about 1/4 inch thick and pounded repeatedly, but gently, until it is very limp.
I found a video on line that does a good job of showing how to clean Abalone.
The farmed abalone is not quite as tough as the wild version. Do not store thawed or fresh abalone for more than one day in the refrigerator. If using the canned version, once opened, it may be kept covered in the refrigerator for two days.
Abalone is a white meat that is moist, tender and mild when cooked properly. Over cooking can make it as tough as leather. The best way to cook it is to sauté. Click on the link for instructions. How to cook abalone