‘Shellfish emperor’ rules over Asian cuisineThat rare, pricey and tasty thing called abalone is considered the “emperor of shellfish,” and for good reason: It has royal roots.
According to legend, the ancient Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered his servants to find a miracle medicine that would give him long life. A courtier presented him with abalone, which he had caught off “Bongnae Island” (these days known as Korea’s Jeju Island). Since then, it is said, abalone has been the seafood of kings in Asia.
One of the most important elements of abalone is taurine, a kind of amino acid. Taurine is in the white powder that sits on the surface of steamed and dried abalone. It’s the white powder on dried squid and octopus.
“Taurine helps an adult’s sight recover, helps to vitalize the retina of an embryo and to develop sight in babies,” said Bae Song-ja, a professor of food and nutrition at Silla University. “It’s why Koreans believe that abalone and top shells are good for one’s sight, and that if a pregnant mom eats abalone, her baby will have good eyes.”
Taurine can also help lower one’s blood pressure and blood cholesterol, while improving the liver and heart.
Abalone is low in fat and high in protein: It is less than 1 percent fat and 13 to 15 percent protein. Dried abalone has 56 grams (2 ounces) of protein per 100 grams. Abalone contains sulfuric amino acids, as well as protein components including methionine and cystine. “Sulfuric amino acids help in the recovery from fatigue and restores energy after being sick, and to detoxify the liver,” said Kim Mee-ree, a professor of food and nutrition at Chungnam National University. “That’s why it’s good for recovering patients, weak persons, liver-disease patients and people with hangovers to have abalone porridge,” she said. “It’s also good for new mothers who don’t have enough milk to eat abalone stew.”
Abalone also contains zinc, which helps in growth and healing. Zinc, which is abundant in marine products such as oyster, abalone, squid and eel, is also said to help boost one’s stamina. Casanova, for example, was reputed to eat 50 oysters a day. Zinc also helps lower the one’s blood sugar and purges lead from the system.
Abalone is thought to be best if it comes from an oval shell rather than a round one. Abalone with round shells generally grow in tropical nations such as the Philippines and mature more quickly; this is said to be the reason for their inferior taste and nutritional content. The color of the meat also depends on gender: female abalone is green and male abalone is yellow. The viscera of abalone is thought to be tasty and nutritional because it contains concentrated elements that are also found in seaweed, but it easily spoils, and should not be eaten in April and May.
by Park Tae-kyun