Monday, January 12, 2009
Chinese New Year is two weeks from now, I would like to introduce the four Chinese delicacies known as the Four “Kings of the Sea”. First I will start off with Abalone.
Abalone, like shark’s fin, is a symbol of wealth and good fortune to the Chinese and is considered a banquet fare. Abalone is used to impart a distinct flavor to Chinese soups; its succulent taste and velvety texture are enticing. One of the finest and most expensive ingredients used in Chinese cuisine, this large marine snail is called “Pao Yu” in Chinese, known as "awabi" in Japanese cuisine, as "loco" in South American, as "ormer" in the English Channel, as "muttonfish" in Australia and as "paua" in New Zealand. Abalone are found in the water where rocks and seaweed are abundant. There are a few varieties available and the red abalone is the largest of the species and most generally available.
Abalone can be purchased fresh, canned, dried or salted and is available in markets and Asian specialty stores. The best kind of dried abalone is devoid of cracks and mold. Avoid darkened ones. If purchased fresh, it should be alive and not fishy-smelling. Refrigerate fresh abalone as soon as possible in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cook within a day of purchase. Store frozen abalone in its wrapper in the freezer and it will last for two months. Canned abalone is the most popular for home cooking because it’s cheaper and easier to prepare.
For most people, abalone are comparatively costly. To eat the best grade abalone in China will cost about one years’ salary of regular Chinese citizen. Abalone is valuable, not only because of the long cultivation period and great demand, but also because of its nutritional properties recognized the world over. From early times, sick elderly and young family members alike are often offered boiled abalone soup as a cure, as much for its healthy composition as for its good taste. Even cultivated abalone must be raised with natural food only. It is one of the most expensive ingredients added to such high-class cuisines as Shark’s Fin soup, Monk jumps over the Wall, and swallow’s nest soup. It’s potency is said to be good for eyesight, strengthening immunity, and can prevent some types of cancer.
Abalone benefits the cardiovascular system as it contains lots of unsaturated fish oils W-3 and W-9. Abalone also contains a wide range of minerals including Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron, Sodium, Magnesium, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, and a number of Vitamins, especially B12.
Having abalone during the eve of CNY which is call the Reunion Dinner symbolise wealth and good fortune for a new year.