Saturday, 24 January 2009


The Oyster is a bivalve mollusk that has existed since prehistoric times. More than 100 species live in colonies natural beds and banks that are to be found in most parts of the world.

During the summer, an oyster lays about 500 million eggs in the water to be fertilized by the male's sperm. Soon after that, a pinhead sized larva swims around and hatch in about ten hours.
In two days shells begin to form and two weeks later pea sized "spat" sink to the bottom. Living on its hollowed out shell, the oyster grows one inch a year. Adults can live to be ten years old and reproduce billions of times. Many marine creatures eat oysters, including whelks and sea stars. Humans consume it either in fresh or dried forms. With so many predators of the oysters, only about one in a million spat will survive.

Oysters that are sold live should smell briny-fresh, and look bright and clean. Shells should be tightly closed (so that you can't pull them apart), or should close tightly when the shell is tapped;
don't buy oysters with open shells. Freshly shucked oysters should be submerged in their own clear liquid (called liquor).

When you buy oysters, it is imperative to keep them alive till you are ready to cook them or serve them. Live oysters can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with wet kitchen towels or paper towels. The key is to keep them truly cold: if possible, at zero degrees Celsius to two degrees Celsius. Within that range, oysters should keep (in a live state) for about four to seven days. Be sure to remove any
that die (look for open shells) during that period so they do not contaminate the remaining oysters. Do not put them in an airtight container or submerge them in fresh water, or they will die.

Shucked oysters should be kept in tightly covered containers, immersed in their liquor; they, too, should keep for up to a week. They should keep for two months if the freezer is set at -20 degrees Celsius or colder. Be sure to thaw frozen oysters in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.

Oyster wonder

In the 1st century, no Roman orgy was complete without huge platters of oysters. The ancient Romans served large quantities of oysters at their banquets and learned to cultivate them. They have a long history of nourishing the human race, and have been a prized food since the pre-Christian era. Few foods can compare with oysters in terms of their nutritional value. The oyster is a well balanced nutritious food, rich in minerals such as zinc and iron, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2 and C.

Oysters are among the few shellfish that people of the world still eat alive and raw. In countless stories and legends throughout history, Oysters have been the base for 'Love potions'. A common cause of impotence in men is zinc deficiency and the richest animal source of zinc of course Oysters. American health guidelines suggest that 15mg of zinc be included in the male diet, the British average is ony 8mg.

Oysters are also a source of Dopamine - a vital neurotransmitter which helps govern brain activity. It provokes sexual interest and triggers responses, while improving performance in both males and females. It is also said to amplify the intensity of sensation.

Health Tip: Because raw foods including oysters may carry bacteria, persons with chronic liver disease, impaired immune systems or cancer should avoid eating raw oysters.

Recipe: Peanuts And Oysters Porridge

Ingredient A:
300g uncooked rice grains
2 tbsps groundnut oil
1 tbsp salt
6 litres water

Ingredient B:
120g peanuts
1/2 tbsp alkaline water/ kan sui

Ingredient C:
120g dried oysters (soaked)
50g dried mushrooms (soaked)
4 slices ginger

Ingredient D:
60g dried squid (toasted)

Some salt

For garnishing:
Some diced spring onions
Some sliced Chinese crullers/ yaw char kwai (refried to crisp it further)
Some pepper

1. Marinate washed rice grains with ingredient (A) for 30 minutes. This helps to soften the rice texture. Bring 6 litres of water to a boil, add in ingredient (A) and (D). Cook on low heat and stir it often.
2. Mix ingredient (B) together for 10 minutes. Soak it in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and cook in fresh boiling water for another 10 minutes to remove the alkaline taste. Remove and drain.
3. Slice oysters of ingredient (C) into pieces. Cook sliced oysters with the ginger slices for 10 minutes. Slice mushroom into pieces.
4. When porridge has reached the first hour of cooking, stir in no.(2) and no.(3). Simmer on low heat till peanuts are soft enough. Stir porridge and add in extra water if the consistency is too thick. Season before serving porridge with the garnishings.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Fish Maws

From Y3K Recipes Issue no.16 - Jan/Feb 2004.
Copyright of Y Three K Publisher. All rights reserved.

An elementary page on fish stomachs, fish maws and dried fish bladders
by Catherine Chia

In this issue, you can enjoy a delicious bonus with seafood as all varieties not only tastes good but share a rich nutritional beneficence. Among the Chinese community, the four most prestigious seafood luxuries are arranged according to the order of importance and value. Top-of the range comes abalones (pronounced as aba-loh-nees), next will be sea cucumbers followed by sharkfins and the final order, fish maws.

Most of us do have a wrong interpretation of what fish maws are. It is wrong to assumed it is the general stomach portion. This is not a true chart as it is the air bladder we should be looking at. The area is also known as the floating bladder as it is filled with arteries and blood capillaries.

Fishes are cold-blooded, water-inhabiting vertebrates with tails and fins, taking in oxygen through their gills. The contract and expand actions enable the fish to stay afloat in the waters whilst the tail and fins helps to propel and steer the body's movement when it glides along.

Evolution makes different species, an example, shark, which is not controlled by the air bladder but it has its own built-in huge oily liver. The body is streamlined shape which makes it ideal for moving fast through waters.

Fish stomach carries an excellent source of protein and a host of minerals, vitamins, iron and iodine. A substance, collagen, adds to the virtures as it is believed this complex structural beauty protein helps the skin to remain radiant and youthful. It has and will always be a legendary food to many wealthy people, especially those with lung illnesses, to consume loads of fish maws. The Chinese medicine-man perceived it to have the medicinal properties, to repair damaged tissues.

The smaller part of the fish stomach is known as fish bladder. This is easily available at the wet markets in both dried and deep-fried forms. Prices vary according to the grade sold. Generally after purchasing it, this is sun-dried, sliced and then deep-fried. It expands quickly like prawn crackers being immersed into hot oil.

Soak the fried maws in water, drain well and coat with some flour. Give this a quick rinse as it helps to remove any excess oil trapped in. You can cook it with other ingredients or stocks as the fish bladders soak up flavours easily.

The thicker pieces are known as fish maws as these come from the last of the ruminant's stomach. Being a delicacy, prices are high, comparable to good quality sea cucumbers and are available at dried marine product shops or the larger-scale herbal shops. Quality of fish maws are determined by the thickness, gender, categories of the fishes caught, depth of the ocean waters, as all these attribute to their goodness.

Steps taken for processing fish maws are generally not much different from sea cucumbers. They are soaked in either warm or cold water for two days. Water should be changed several times in-between and make sure all utensils used are totally free of oil as it can caused the fish maws to decay easily.

On the following day, heat up a big stainless steel pot with lots of water. Bring this to a rapid boil and turn off the heat. Immerse in the pre-soaked fish maws, let the water cool naturally. Remove fish maws and repeat this boiling hot and cooled water treatment several times till the fish maws are soft enough for the finger prick test. Do not boil them as it is not a good procedure.

Wash the soften fish maws well. Clean off the slimes, as you squash it, there is a sponge-like feel. Keep cleaned fish maws in a storage box filled with clean water. Place in the freezer's lower compartment and it keeps pretty well if instructions are followed closely.

Our previous articles on abalones and sea cucumbers are found in Issue 4 and Issue 10 respectively. Happy reading.

How to Soak Fish Maws (Fish Stomaches)

Rinse fish maws, place into a pot covered with a large amount of water. Bring water to a rapid boil. Cook for 30 minutes until softened. If it is still hard, cook for another 15 minutes.

Turn off heat, leave pot cover on for two hours. It will swell but fish maws must be submerged in sufficient water.

Drain and soak fish maws once more. Water must be above fish maws until softened.

Slice fish maws and cook. If not using them immediately, drain and keep in a box to be frozen. Thaw when needed. (Fish maws has good benefits for the lungs and the rich collagen gives skin good supplement when consumed frequently.)

Recipe: Majestic Fish Maw Steak

1 piece pre-treated fish maw
2 flower heads of broccoli
2 shallots (skinned)
3 pips garlic (skinned)
A few pieces curry leaves
1 dried chilli (cut into sections)
300 ml superior stock

Some oyster sauce
Some chicken granules

For thickening: Mix well
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp water

1. Cut broccoli into florets. Blanch it in boiling water, to which some oil and salt has been added in. Keep drained florets aside.
2. Heat up a little oil in wok. Saute shallots, garlic, dried chillies and curry leaves. Remove it and set aside.
3. Pour superior stock into wok, add in fish maw. Bring it to a boil over low heat.
4. Add in seasoning and thickening. Adjust taste and dish up. Decorate with no.(1) and (2).

A short lesson on processing dried fish baldders

Buy the pre-fried dried fish bladders. In a wok of warm oil (not boiling hot), refry it to expand it further. The colours should not changed to golden. If what you purchased are in the dried form, cut them into small pieces. Sundry it before deep-frying them in warm oil. This helps to expand the bladders a lot better.

Soak them in a bowl of clean water for approximately 10 minutes.

Remove above and coat it with some flour. This is to soak up excess oil trapped in.

Wash flour coated bladder pieces well. Change the murky waters several times till it is clear looking.

Squeeze it dry and this is ready for your cooking.

Recipe: Hokkien-Style Fish Bladder Soup

200g dried fish bladders
10 mushrooms (soaked, shredded)
Some shredded ginger
100g bamboo shoot (blanched)
100g lean pork (sliced)
Some tapioca flour

550 ml superior stock
Some salt

Ingredients for pig's bone superior stock:
1 piece pig bone
10 pieces chicken feet
2 litres water
Some salt

1. To prepare superior stock, boil pig bone and chicken feet in water over high heat for 2-3 hours till the soup turns milky. Add in salt and adjust taste.
2. Coat the lean pork slices with some tapioca powder, set aside.
3. Heat up wok, add in some oil. Stir fry the mushrooms till fragrant. Add in seasoning, bamboo shoots and dried fish bladders. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
4. Add in no.(2) and shredded ginger. Bring it to another boil and turn off the heat. Scoop it into a soup bowl, serve hot.

Tips: Turn off heat once the meat is cooked, this will ensure its texture is smooth.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


From Y3K Recipes Issue no.22 - Jan/Feb 2005.
Copyright of Y Three K Publisher. All rights reserved.

Genuine Sharksfins Vs Artificial and Vegetarian Sharksfins

The 'treasures of the sea' are the four most highly-prized delicacies in Chinese cuisine. Abalones, sea cucumbers, sharksfins and fish maws are arranged in this order. These are all considered to be true gourmet items as besides health-enriching qualities, they come with a range of beliefs steeped in symbolism and good meanings like bountiful harvests, prosperity and good wishes for life ahead. But auspicious meanings apart, the delicacies are a treasure trove for health too.

Each Lunar New Year, Y3K Recipes have showered readers with recipes using the delicacies. In this issue, sharksfin is the specially chosen feature as we go a little in-depth.

Sharksfins are obtained from a variety of sharks which inhabit the Indo-Pacific Oceans, Sri Lanka, South China and so forth. It can be quite a tedious task to extract the fins. Dried, processed fins are easily available at supermarkets, Chinese shops that offer traditional delicacies or even at herbal shops. On the other hand, many shops sell the non-processed fins as the costs are relatively cheaper. This product needs a series of treatments before it is soft and edible.

Prices of each grade escalates according to their quality. The general three types of fins are the dorsal (back), the pectoral (side) and caudal (tail) with the dorsal fins taking the top stand in premium quality. Pectoral fins are considered to be slightly inferior.

To remove the ligaments from the skin and flesh, the fins have to be cooked, braised, soaked, washed under running tap water and redone several times before approval is met. Please leaf through page 73 on the cleaning process of smaller pieces of fins. The complexity normally arises with the big fins as it has to be cooked in huge pots of boiling water for an hour to two, over low heat.

Once the flame has being turned off, it has to sit in the pot till the water has cooled down naturally. Next the fins are placed over a huge pot of boiling water, ready to be steamed for anther three to four hours. After this softening step, a knife is used to scrape off any unwanted materials.

Leave cleaned sharkfins in the third pot of boiling water. Add in some slices of ginger and several stalks of spring onion. Bring it to another boil over high heat for one to two hours. Fishy odours can be eliminated, remove fins to cool.

Separate the ligaments from the bones, wash it once again and the final product is the golden delicacy of sharksfins. It can be used directly for cooking soups or kept frozen for a period.

Please pay attention to the following tips if you intend to prepare this highly-prized delicacy from scratch. No cold water should be used for boiling the fins as all waters have to be at a boiling point when you lower the fins in. it needs no stirring at all times and refrain from using cast iron or copper pots. A chemical reaction may cause leaching into the fins.

Stainless steel or claypots are the best utensils for the cooking process. Oil, alkaline and salt are known to destroy the qualities during the cleaning process.

Do not prolong soaking unnecessarily as fins may disintegrate easily. This delicacy is valued for its gelatinous texture, protein, as it nourishes the body system.

On the whole, sharksfins has very little flavours of its own, but when cooked or braised with a superior stock of an old hen and Chinese ham, the flavours are good to the last drop as it has an interesting texture that absorbs good flavours in easily.

Gourmets have the passion to make lip-smacking cuisines from it.

Of late, marine life conservationists and environmentally friendly groups have tried to create an awareness of how gruesome an act can be when some deep-sea fishermen would cut off the fins from the sharks and throw the fishes back into the deep seas. This endangers their chances of survival and raising awareness had reduced consumers' demands. Many restaurants have resorted to using the artificial or vegetarian sharksfins to replace for the genuine stuff.

It is definitely much cheaper to using fake fins. How can one tell which is a real thing. A simple test is to cut a strand of fin.

Genuine sharksfins come in various long and short slivers and once cut, it leaves behind very minute strands of fins due to the gelatinous texture.

Artificial fins are of the equal length and the cut end is always neat.

How to differentiate genuine & artificial sharksfins
Demonstrated by Catherine Chia

(1) Genuine sharksfins can be torn apart.

(2) Genuine sharksfins break into very fine threads when you rub against them.

(3) Artificial sharksfins cannot be torn apart.

(4) Artificial sharksfins break into two when it is being rubbed.

Recipe: Sharksfin Soup Of The Day

150g processed sharksfins or artificial sharksfins
150g cooked chicken shreds
200g crab meat
2 litres superior stock
2 stalks spring onion (cut into sections)
4 slices old ginger
4 pips garlic (smashed)
1 egg (lightly beaten)

1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine

For thickening: (mixed together)
100g potato starch or corn flour
100ml water

1. Place sharksfins in a colander and wash it clean under running water. Pour boiling water over, remove and keep aside.
2. Place crab meat in a colander, wash and let it drain well. Remove crabs to a bowl, steam it for five minutes. Remove and set aside.
3. Heat up a little oil in a pot. Saute ginger, garlic, spring onions, superior stock and seasonings. Bring it to a boil, discard ginger, garlic and spring onions with the aid of a sieve.
4. Place in chicken shreds and flaked crab meat. Bring it to another quick boil.
5. Taste and adjust according to your own preference. Thicken the soup.
6. Turn off heat, beat in the egg, add in no.(1) the fins. Serve hot in small bowls with condiments of black vinegar and brandy. These are optional items.

1. Cooking Superior Stock: Chop a chicken into pieces. Remove skin and fats, parboil in boiling water for 10 minutes to remove scums. Remove and wash meat clean. Place meat into a pot filled with 2 1/2litres of water. Add in 5 dried scallops and boil it on high heat till it comes to a rapid boil. Turn heat to medium and boil stock till flavours are released. Cool stock before freezing it. Thaw stock before usage.

2. Potato starch gives a nicer consistency as a thickener even when the soup has been kept standing for a long time. Both cornflour and tapioca flour loosen up the glueing effect when the soup turns cold.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Sea Cucumbers

From Y3K Recipes Issue no.10 - Jan/Feb 2003.
Copyright of Y Three K Publisher. All rights reserved.

Sand fish

Teat fish

In the oceanic waters of Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Philippines, Indonesia, Seychelles and Africa, there lies a great wealth of sea cucumbers. Under natural history, they are classified as the Echinoderms group. Biologists believed there are countless other species yet to be defined.

Generally, sea cucumbers like to breed in clean, uncontaminated waters filled with corals. Normally embedded in a depth of 40-60 feet sandy grounds, they at times do perch on top of sea-bed rocks, forming a friendly colony with sea urchins and starfishes.

Environmentalists treasure these sea creatures as it helps in the natural evolution cycle of the Earth. Plants grow in the sea and produces oxygen to make the air breathable. Sea cucumbers nurtured on these drifting algae plants as it provides the right food for them. The marine plankton and the plant plankton co-habitat with one another. Thus,over many generations, a chain of evolution forms.

Throughout its life cycle, both sexes of sea cucumbers have good reproductive years. During the spawning season, sperms released are likely to fertilized with eggs breed. After the hatching period, larvae evolve and begin to develop slowly. Small larvae may be food to the bigger fishes, crustaceans, prawns, molluscs, octopuses who prey on them.

A matured sea cucumber has its own biological defensive weapon. When provoked, it is prompted to thrust out its internal organs but returns quickly to its normal self when left alone. They are normally harvested at a depth of 40-60 feet but sometimes it gets down to 100 feet deep. After the harvest, they are brought up to shores. The cleaning process begins but it does differ slightly in the processing for each variety caught.

1) Sea cucumbers are quite fat-free and possess good proteins. This is a much sought after dried seafood delicacy. Hokkiens (a dialect group of the Chinese) will definitely cook this ingredient as festive food.
2) In Cantonese, it is known as Hoi Sum. It incorporates a pun with a symbolic rhyme of Happy hearts. This is reasonable enough why sea cucumbers make good gift packs during Chinese New Year.

A first-hand knowledge of :

(A) Steps taken in cleaning teat fish for export. (chee poh sum in Cantonese)
Use sea water to soak it for eight hours. Change sea water constantly, till it is clean. Bring sea water or plain water to a boil. Add in a couple of sea cucumbers to boil for 45 minutes. Repeat with the rest of sea cucumbers. Turn off the heat and let it cool naturally. Slice open at a length of two-three cm and clean off entrails. Repeat the boiling step all over again to do a thorough job.

After the cooling process, pierce a sharp, bamboo skewer through the body. This helps to retain its shape. Flip over to rest it on its tummy side. Put it out into the sun to dry. Later, roast it in the oven for a while to ensure even drying. Remove the skewer and to retain a shape, bind it with a string each. Place it under the scorching sun to dry again. Untie the string, sort out the grades and it is ready for export.

(B) Processing sand fish
Clean off all entrails. Drain dry on bamboo racks. Boil and let it cool naturally. Bury it in the sand for 15-18 hours. Bring it out and give it a good scrub. Boil again, cool thoroughly and a final step, sun it once more. Only properly dried sea cucumbers can have a good storage life. This is then marketed to the middleman who would resell it for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Homework for Home Cooks. The cleaning process of sea cucumbers

Sea cucumbers, disregarding sizes and colours, possess the same nutrients. They contain loads of protein and are low in fats and cholesterol. Being nicknamed as Ginseng of the sea, it is believed to have some curative remedies. The jelly-like fibrous, spongy substance are considered to be good for hypertension and is an aphrodisiac in the Chinese health benefit language.

A few points are printed here to help you to select a prime buy. The sea cucumbers must be really dried, knock it against a table's surface. Listen to the strong sound, the heavier the echo, the better it is. Well dried sea cucumbers have a good storage life. The spiky chee sum can easily be recognised. Teat fish or chee poh sum is sturdy built and has two little spikes at the sides. Some are not too obvious and at times it can be mistaken for another variety, which bears a close resemblence.

Sand fish has a rounder appearance and has horizontal lines across. This is the most common type for household purchases. It needs a trained eye to choose the varieties and a non-unscrupulous dealer to help you.

When you need to cook sea cucumbers, prepare the tedious task, days ahead. Give it a wash, soak it in a basin of tap water for one day.

On the second day, boil a pot of water. Turn off the heat, immerse in the sea cucumbers and cover up the pot. Soak for the whole day.

On the third day, split open the stomach, remove all entrails, scrub it inside out, very clean with a brush. Boil another pot of water. Turn off heat and immerse cucumbers in again till it is soft enough. Remember the water must be boiling hot before you turn off the heat, the pot and water must be free of oil.

As a matter of fact, you never soak dried seafood of any kind in water that has even a drop of oil. The sea cucumbers should have doubled its size now. To remove the fishy odour, place slices of old ginger, stalks of spring onion and some Chinese cooking wine into a pot. You either use a stock or plain water to cook it for 15-30 minutes. After this process, it should be ready for its pairing-off with other ingredients.

Sea cucumbers are virtually tasteless on its own. It absorbs the flavour from stock of the dishes. It can withstand long terms of cooking like braising, double-boiling, simmering or it can be stir-fried with sauces ranging from savoury, sweet, sourish or spicy.

At any rate, try cooking our recipes printed. The enthusiastic home cook will surely be able to dish up something wonderful for this festival. Happy cooking.


1/2 portion of a pig's fore-trotter (chop into pieces)
1/2 rice bowl oil
600g pre-soaked sea cucumbers
2 whole bulbs of garlic (leave skins on)
A little minced garlic
1 tbsp sugar
1 Litre water
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
A little pepper

1. Parboil pig's trotter pieces for five minutes. This is to remove the oil and scums. Dish up and drain dry.
2. In luke warm oil, stir-fry sea cucumber pieces. Remove and drain away excess oil.
3. Heat clean wok, add in 1/2 rice bowl oil and caramel the sugar till a light golden colour is achieved. Do this process on a very low heat. When the sugar solution is bubbly, put in no.(1). Stir well over a high heat.
4. Add in minced garlic, seasoning and water. Simmer over medium heat for 1 hour.
5. Add in the whole garlic bulbs and sea cucumbers. Top with extra water if necessary. After 1/2 hour, check ingredients for tenderness and gravy should be rather thick in consistency.
6. Finally, drizzle in the Chinese cooking wine and dish up contents.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


From Y3K Recipes Issue no.4 - Jan/Feb 2002.
Copyright of Y Three K Publisher. All rights reserved.

A Brief History

Abalones are harvested in many regions around the world, the seas around Mexico has the best ones. Abalones are also found in the waters around Australia, along U.S.A.'s Pacific Coast, the Arabian Gulf and of course, the sea around Japan.

However, only Japan can boast a special variety of abalones that can be cured without compromising its distinctive aroma - a delicacy much sought after the gourmets around the world. Abalones from other regions are usually sold canned or fresh.
The sea around Japan where abalones are harvested is pollution-free. This is one of the reasons for the good quality.

What is special about Japanese dry abalones?

To begin with, the semi-opaque dried abalones are distinguished by its special smooth flavour and rich aroma. When sliced open, it has the colour of salted duck egg yolks with a slight tint of gold.

In terms of shapes and sizes, the Canadian abalones are closest to the Japan variety. In fact, a group of Japanese abalone masters went to Canada with the intention to produce dried abalones with the Canadian variety. But, after several months of experimentations, they returned to Japan with disappointment. They are now more convinced that Japanese dried abalones are unique.

Generally, the string of bays dotting the Iwate and Aomori prefectures produces the most famous abalones. The finest abalones are found in a strip of water known as Three Trees in Miyako. But it is not easy to harvest abalones here. The reasons are the great depth and older abalones are wiser. They have learnt to avoid suction tubes by hiding deep down. As they tend to evade the hunters for a long time, they are often larger than normal.

Controlled Harvesting

Recently, the Japanese government enacted special laws for harvesting abalones. Fishermen must use a periscope and special suction tube to catch abalones. They are not allowed to dive into the creature's habitat. Fishermen are only allowed to catch fully grown abalones. Undersized ones should remain untouched.

Abalone fishermen work throughout the day. Only 10 per cent of the catch is used for making dried abalones. The rest are canned or made into abalone sashimi or tepanyaki. Recent times in Japan, Abalone sashimi has become very popular as a highly nutritious delicacy. Until recently, the Japanese did not know that such delicacy could be made from dried abalones. Now they have learnt the secrets from Chinese chefs. The production of dried abalones is bound to increase.

A Master's touch

In Japan, three families are renowned for the production of dried abalones.Each family has a master who is both the director and producer of the show. To produce perfectly dried abalones, their experiences and expertise are crucial.

First, skilled women workers carefully separated the flesh from the shell, this process demands utmost skill because damaged abalones will be rejected. Being so, unskilled workers will never be employed.The technique of separating abalones from the shell is not as easy as it seems, the innards of the abalones,a delicacy, must also be extracted. This surgeons will definitely lose their jobs after a few blunders.

Once the abalones are removed from its shell, they are immersed in salt water for two days. After that they have to be thoroughly boiled. Then spun in a revolving cylinder to remove all impurities. The process takes about an hour. An abalone factory is always steamy hot, so hygiene is very important. Therefore, women workers wear special headgear and plastic overalls.

These skilled workers now move the abalones from the boiling water onto a huge strainer, the sized of a single bed. They do not touch the abalones with their bare hands, and instead use large wooden spatulas. Once cooled, the abalones are place on a bamboo stand.

Then, the bamboo stand is placed over a large charcoal oven. The clay brick oven normally holds only 3-4 pieces of charcoal internally. The slow heat evaporates the moisture in the abalones without damaging the stand. This requires careful control of intense heat. When the abalones are about 80 percent dry, they are sewn together with large needles and thin strings from one end to the other. A string of abalones usually consists of 10 golden yellow pieces. These strands are then strung on bamboo sticks, which are fixed vertically on wooden squares. Hundreds and thousands of abalones hoisted in these frames make a spectacular sight. They are thus sun-dried for about a month, as the abalones turn reddish. Excessive sunlight will damage the abalones.

A small quantity of the Japanese harvest is exported to Hong Kong as dried abalones, the rest are for the domestic market in Japan.

Recipe 1: Endowed with New Year Happiness

1 Amidori Abalone (about 150g)
300ml superior stock

Superior Stock Ingredients:
1 mother hen
10 pieces chicken feet
300g belly pork
2 litres water

A few pieces of rock sugar
1 tsp chicken powder
1 tsp oyster sauce
A little dark soy sauce

1/2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp water

1. Soak dried abalone in water for 8 hours. Clean the abalone.
2. Boil the superior stock ingredients over medium heat for 2 hours.
3. Put 300ml superior stock in a double boiler. Add in abalone. Simmer for 16 hours.
4. Transfer the abalone into a plate.
5. Boil the remaining abalone stock. Add in seasoning and thicken the stock. Pour it over the abalone.

Canned Abalones

The demand for Chinese dried seafood tends to increase tremendously as the Lunar New Year approaches.

The Chinese Culture is very much entrenched in their food, especially celebrating special occasions like the reunion dinner - the open day of New Year, which is the second day of Lunar New Year - Low Shang on the seventh day - The Hokkien New Year on the ninth day - Chap Go Mei on the fifteenth day. The Chinese custom emphasizes heavily on serving good food during happy occasions.

In Fact, the demand for Chinese dried seafood tends to increase tremendously as the Lunar New Year approaches. Dried seafood such as abalones, sharksfin, sea cucumbers, scallops and dried oysters were for the elite in the olden days. However, there is a change in the contemporary trend whereby restaurants promote abalones dishes as their signature dish. Among the popular dishes are the Monk Jumps Over The Wall, Sharksfin set meal and dried abalones set meal. These dishes are becoming more popular and common.

Besides the abalones' excquisite taste, what is the reason that causes its popularity?

Abalones are categorized as a type of soft-shelled creature. They are mainly found in the seas of Japan, South Africa, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. An abalone contains lots of protein and vitamin A. It helps to improve the kidneys' condition and one's eyesight. If Chinese herbs are combined together, it brings lots of good health.

The Alisan brand abalones are found in the seas of Mexico. The processed abalones maintain a springy texture, which is most suitable to be eaten raw or to go along with chilli sauce or oyster sauce.

The Skylight brand abalones are found in the seas of Australia and New Zealand. The abalone hunters usually capture these creatures during the night time and processed them into canned abalones within five hours, before 10 a.m. These canned abalones are famous for its unique sweetness and smooth texture.

Abalones should not be eaten on empty stomachs as this will eliminates its goodness. Abalones are able to revive one's energy level too.

Recipe 2: Abalone Delicacies

200g Skylight brand abalone
10 fresh asparagus stalks
200g medium-sized prawns

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp corn flour
1 cup superior stock

1. Shell and clean prawns. Mince it. Add in a little salt and sugar. Mix well to form a paste. Add in corn flour. Set aside.
2. Place thinly sliced abalone onto a plate. Spread some corn flour on top.
3. Trim asparagus to 4 inches from tip. Blanch in boiling water. Dish up and plunge into cold water. Drain and set aside.
4. Spread a layer of prawn paste (about 20g each) onto abalone. Roll around each aparagus spear.
5. Steam over high heat. Thicken superior stock to form a sauce with corn flour. Pour over abalone asparagus spears.