ab·a·lo·ne noun \ˌa-bə-ˈlō-nē, ˈa-bə-ˌ\
: a type of shellfish that is eaten as food and that has a shell that is lined with a hard white material (called mother-of-pearl)
Animal Planet definition
Abalone = marine snail, ear shell, sea ear, and ormer.
Hannah Panda definition
Abalone = food.
This maiden trip to Hawaii has proven to be quite a fascinating one. So far, for the first time, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to:
1) “Swim” in the blue Hawaiian sea and a 30-feet deep pond/waterfall (not to mention taking the next step in overcoming my fear of water *pat-on-the-back*)
2) “Swim” with the very social Hawaiian dolphins
3) Sit in a helicopter, exploring the fascinating landscape of Big Island Hawaii (which includes the various interesting volcanoes)
4) Tour a seahorse farm
5) Enjoy a full-experience visit to an abalone farm
I’ve talked about my first swimming experience in the earlier blog post, and will definitely fill you in with the rest as we go along; but for now, I’m still buzzing with excitement over my recent visit to the abalone farm. *panda-dance*
If you know me well enough, you’ll know that my enthusiasm for food supersedes everything else (solely in the context of travel, of course). .I’m the kind of traveller that will naturally pick a food tour over the typical sightseeing tour on any given trip. As long as I’m fed, I’m happy. My bestie/former housemate Jamie, used to call me “tham-chiak” [Hokkien for glutton]. So yea, you get the idea. I LOVE food. *sensible-nod*
With that, you can imagine the look on my face when we arrived at the abalone farm in Big Island. Saying that I was overjoyed would’ve been an understatement. Lol
Here's the thing.
#1 – I love food
#2 – I loooooooooove eating abalone
It’s just rather unfortunate that abalone cost so much back home in Malaysia, hence the reason why it’s categorized as “treat” instead of “food”, for this perpetually-hungry Panda. *sheepish-grin*
Back to my little adventure at the abalone farm: Big Island Abalone Corporation (BIAC). Just to give you a background of BIAC, they specifically produce/farm Ezo, which is a species of abalone from the cold waters of Northern Japan; and supply it to various chefs and top-end restaurants in Tokyo, Waikiki, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Apparently it takes only 20 hours to ship live abalone door-to-door from this farm to Japan.
Side-track a bit - Did you know that the famous Japanese iron chef Masaharu Morimoto-san was here too?!!
Just FYI, here are a few other facts about the Big Island Abalone Corporation (BIAC):
- Sole producers of abalone on the Hawaiian islands
- One of the largest privately owned abalone company in the world
- Operates in a 10-acre aquafarm, one of the largest in the world
So, lucky me!
Thanks to our very welcoming guide Chiha san, I was fortunate to discover the process of how a tiny baby abalone (see that little dot in the middle of this picture?)…
…becomes a full-grown marine snail in approximately 3 years.
So what exactly happens on this farm?
Basically the baby abalones are kept in the nursery for 6 months before being sent to the “growout” area comprising of 336 cages located in 32 tanks.
From 3 months of age, they feed on this nutrition-packed marine algae.
They stay on the farm for about 2.5 years, following which, they are graded (according to weight)…
…and shipped out in these boxes.
It’s so strange because I’ve only seen abalone in its “edible” state – either on a plate or in a tin can; hence this educational tour was definitely an eye opener for me.
After seeing the “live” version, most abalone eaters may find a significant drop in desire to eat these marine snails; but for me, no difference. I'm half-Chinese, remember? Lol
You learnt about the food chain in school right?
While the marine algae is food for the abalone, the abalone is food for this hungry Panda! Mwahaha~
As you may have already guessed, the highlight of this visit was when Chiha san selected the 3 BIGGEST ones one the farm and popped them on the grill…for me! :-D
No salt, no seasoning and cooked to perfection.
This was sooooooooo good. With just the right intensity of saltiness (from the sea water?), the chewy yet smooth texture of this exquisite lil’ treat was perfect to compliment every natural full-flavoured juicy bite. Heaven on earth. *angels-singing*
Soooo good that I went back for second helping the very next day. Go team Malaysia! Lol
Aaaaand, because it's quite nutritious, I don't feel so bad either. Haha. Have a wonderful week ahead guys! Mwah!