Sushi - Sushi Shellfish - Abalone

Abalone (Awabi)

Haliotis discus discus Reeve (Black Abalone)

Also see: Abalone Sushi in Sushi Menu

The abalone has been used in many main dishes in Japanese cuisines besides sushi, and there are two basic ways they are enjoyed. The first is raw. The abalone must be live and extra cold. When consumed raw, the aromas of the sea are enjoyed along with a very crunchy flavor. The sound of the crunch is considered a compliment to raw abalone.

The second way is grilled. They are usually grilled in their shell with a dash of rice wine, and soy sauce to be left alone to cook in their own juices. The abalone becomes very soft and chewy when it is cooked. The strong ocean scents are lost, but a meatier flavor is achieved. In Edo style sushi, the abalone were quickly steamed with rice wine to prevent the flavors to be bled out due to water loss when grilled. This sealed the flavors inside the abalone as much as possible for a small piece of nigiri.

The black abalone is the most expensive type in the markets. Many less expensive Australian Victoria abalone (Haliotis conicopora) are seen in the market recently for the decrease in black abalone catches. The Victoria abalone is brown in color and much softer compared to the white and turgid black abalone, but some chefs are starting to like the soft raw texture as well.

The name awabi is believed to come from the term awanu mi, or a body that does not match, which describes how it is a single shell clam. Awanu mi became awami and then awabi.