The Peak (Malaysia) - - Food For Thought -

The hum­ble abalone has held a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing food fit only for roy­alty for years. Though de­vel­op­ments in farm­ing and pro­cess­ing this prized mol­lusc make it more read­ily avail­able to­day, it can still fetch a hefty price. WHAT? Abalone are shell­fish prized for both the meat and shell. They are most cov­eted in South­east and East Asian cul­tures, as his­tor­i­cally, th­ese ten­der morsels would be served to the em­per­ors of dy­nas­ties old along­side shark’s fin and bird’s nest soup, while present times see them as a del­i­cacy nor­mally re­served to mark the finer mo­ments in life, namely wed­dings and cel­e­bra­tions. WHY? The large price tag on this pre­cious shell­fish, es­pe­cially wild abalone, can be at­trib­uted to the dif­fi­culty of procur­ing it, as well as laws to pro­tect and con­serve abalone species from ex­tinc­tion. Abalone are no­to­ri­ously hard to fish, as they live on rocky oceanic out­crops and have an ex­tremely strong hold to th­ese rocks to avoid be­ing washed away by the tide. Fur­ther­more, lo­cat­ing them could prove to be a prob­lem too, as they are known to grow in hard-to-reach cran­nies while cam­ou­flaged among the rocks. WHERE? Abalone can be found along the coast of al­most ev­ery con­ti­nent, but are most com­monly har­vested along the coasts of South Africa, Ja­pan and the Oceanic con­ti­nent, es­pe­cially in New Zea­land where it is known by its Maori name, paua. HOW MUCH? Wild-caught abalone can run up to USD500 per kilo­gram, weighed along with the shell, which would yield only about a fourth of that weight in abalone meat. Wild dried abalone sold by the Tas­ma­nian com­pany Candy Abalone is a hit in the Chi­nese mar­ket, reach­ing prices of AUD1,400 per kilo­gram.

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