Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Abalones We Picked on Mother's Day

Why not beautiful bouquet or expensive dinner but abalones on Mother's Day? Because I suppose Mother's Day is the day that we do something for mom and/or let her do what she likes to do the most. My mom loves picking abalones. And since last Saturday was the spring tide day, the tide still fell quite a lot on the next day (Mother's Day), too. So there was nowhere else on this planet that my mom wanted to be but the beach -- more precisely, some particular big rocks that appear only when the tide is lowest in the spring tide. And I went with her to keep her company. (But once we start picking, we don't care much about each other. :P)

This type of abalones in the above photo live in the cracks of big rocks. You have to have experienced eyes to be able to find them because they look just the same as the surface of the rock. Now my mom is having difficulties when reading books and newspaper, but when looking for abalones, her eyes are nothing but hawk eyes. Honestly. And didn't I tell you that she walks very slow because of her bad leg? Amazingly enough, it doesn't bother her at all when picking abalones.
These are the "must haves" for abalone pickers here. We used to wear old sneakers, but they were slippery on wet rocks. Then mom bought these special footwear a few years ago. The upper part is as soft as socks but the toes and the bottom are covered with thick, tough rubber-like material. And the soles are slip resistant. Neat stuff. Mom and I don't want neighbors to see us when we are in these extremely eye-catching footwear, so we carry them in a bag until we get on the beach and then get changed there. LOL

The metal stick is flat on one end and has a hook on the other end. When you find an abalone, you insert the flat end between the shellfish and the surface of the rock, and hit the other end with a piece of stone until the abalone is detached from the rock. Then you take the abalone out of the crack using the hook. Sometimes it's difficult, but it's so much fun!

I guess mom and I picked about 40 to 50 abalones altogether. Mom cooked them in a pressure cooker. Actually this type of abalones usually turn VERY chewy when cooked, and we used to enjoy picking but hate eating them. Then one day one of the relatives taught mom that a pressure cooker could cook them quite soft, and now we can enjoy both picking AND eating them.

Simmered Abalones

But still I think we always pick more than we can enjoy eating.


tina said...

Ah,oishii so..... I'm drooling. What's better than fresh abalones! Please DHL some over. haha.

Erin said...

Wow, those pictures bring back memories! My dad and I used to pick opihi (they're some kind of limpet found in Hawaii) at the beach when I was little. We had those rubber tabi, too.

Anyway, I'm glad you and your mother had a happy Mother's Day! It's cool that you can do stuff like that together.

Mora said...

Hello, Obachan. What a wonderful day you spent with your mother. Treasure every moment you have with her. I loved the tip about using the pressure cooker. It's so clever. We all know you feasted like royalty with so many abalone.
P.S. It's great to have you back blogging!!!

Joanna said...

ooh! I used to harvest abalone when I was a student back in Western Australia. We only could harvest them a few weeks in a year and was limited to catching 20 per person. I remember using a small laundry bag (those with netting for your to put your delicate wear), and using a screw driver to yank out the abalone. Once you failed the first yank, they will stick even tighter to the rocks and you will not be able to get them. Oh! there was a minimum size also. If you picked the undersized ones, the volunteer police will arrest and slap a fine on you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Obachan,

Good to hear you having fun again, this time, like a lil girl at the beach. I'm full of admiration for your mum's energy. You must be benefiting a lot from her teaching and experience.

Yeah, chewy abalones are nasty, but hail pressure cooker, the fellas are nailed!

In my country, abalones are delicacies, so I'm quite surprized to find them that affordable in Japan. And fresh! It's mostly canned stuff I can get back home. So what we do is, the cans are dumped into pots, and simmered for hours. The flavor is entirely retained within the cans, soft and sweet. All ready to be prepared for dishes later! =D

Sigh. I miss home...

yamo said...

wow, the sizes are a lot different than in Calfornia. Over here, it's very regulated. Restaurants and stores can only sell farm raised abalone. The ones which are caught off the coast can be no smaller (yes, no smaller!) than 7 inches (~17.5cm).
And the limit is 3 per day, 24 max (I think). Oh, you also need a license, and can't use any breathing aparatus (like SCUBA).

obachan said...

Oh, I wish I could. :D

Limpet? Something like these? We have them here, too. In fact, mom also picked some of them and made clear soup with them.

And I'm thrilled to know that rubber tabi is used outside Japan, too! :D

The traditional way to cook abalones soft is to cook them with daikon raddish. But we have never tried it. Obviously our family prefered buying a pressure cooker only once to buying daikon raddish everytime we pick abalone. ;)

Wow, you have much stricter rules there. I think the rules vary in different places in Japan. Here we can harvest them in spring and summer, and if you break the rule, you'll get arrested. But there's no "volunteer" police here. We are not supposed to pick too small ones. Maybe what mom and I pick are close to the borderline?? :P

Anonymous commenter;
Yeah, she is unbelievably energetic when it comes to abalone picking. Seeing her, I'm inclined to agree with those who say, "Greed is the best motivation."

Looks like several different kinds of abalones are available here in Japan, and the expensive ones are real delicacies... So I heard (because I have never tasted them myself.)

Holy cow! 17.5 cm!? Boy, you do have REAL strict rules there. But that is good. I think it's important to prevent extinction. (Mom would never ever want to live in California, though.)

IIRC, here in my hometown we need to either get a license or pay certain fee or something to pick abalone. Dad said that was already taken care of for our family.

Nerissa said...

I have always wondered what abalone tastes like.
On the West Coast of Canada abalone has become an endangered species and it is illegal to hunt (although, alas, there are still a number of poachers out there). In the Chinese markets in Vancouver, you can get Australian ones but they are very very expensive.

lierre.empire said...

wah...i love abalone..i went japan din managed to c them selling fresh one =(..i know how to cook me at chinese style =D

Rinshinomori said...


Does your mom use an electric pressure cooker or manual one? How long does she cook it?

I've never heard of using a pressure cooker for abalone. Very interested.

obachan said...

Even here in Japan, good ones are very expensive. The kind my mom usually picks is the chewy ones that professionals do not use and actually most local people do not dare to eat. Otherwise they would be endangered, too, because mom does a real thorough job when she picks them. ;P

Oh abalone cooked in Chinese style must be really nice. :)

Hers is not an electric pressure cooker. She needs to put it on gas stove -- so it's manual?

How long to cook? Good question. She must have cooked them many times since the summer 2007(?) but still cannot remember how long she cooked it last time. I was doing something else and saw her reading the instruction of the pressure cooker. But looked like she couldn't understand it and quit following it. So I don't know, exactly. Sorry.


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