Dried Abalone is one the most exquisite of all delicacies of Chinese cuisine and is served without fail at any respectable banquet. In Chinese cuisine, dried foodstuff when cooked properly is often preferred to the fresh original and Dried Abalone is considered to be the King of Dried Seafood. That’s why people take the effort to cook Dried Abalone over up to a weeks time. Compared to fresh abalone, it has a more intense abalone taste as well as a nicer tender texture.
- Dried Abalone (6 of 30g each)
- Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (6)
- Chicken Feet (12)
- Crushed Ginger (1T)
- Mini Chinese Cabbage (Bok Choy)
- Hon Dashi
- Chinese Wine
- Light Soya Sauce
- Oyster Sauce
- warning: this requires a minimum of 5 days preparation.
- Soak the dried abalone in cold water for 2 days. Pour away the water and replace it every 12 hours. You can soak for a shorter period of time if you are using smaller abalone.
- Blanch the chicken feet in boiling water in a pot for a minute and then discard the water. Add 4 cups of fresh boiling water and bring to a simmer. Add 1T of Hon Dashi pellets. Simmer the stock for 20 minutes each time you are changing the water for the abalone in step 2 (i.e. 4x altogether). If chicken feet make you squeamish or are hard to find, see my notes below for alternatives.
- After the long soak, you will notice you abalone have grown in size. Snip off the bits protruding from the round part of the abalone with scissors. It’s circled in red in the picture. This part contains the entrails of the abalone, so dig out any black bits you see as well. Then rinse well under running water.
- Simmer the abalone in a pot of water containing 1T of crushed ginger and 1T of Chinese wine for 20 minutes. This step is to remove any lingering fishy odour. Allow to cool and then discard the water.
- Pour the chicken stock into the pot with the abalone. Add 1T soya sauce, 1T oyster sauce, 2T Chinese wine and 1t sugar. Simmer for 20 minutes and allow to cool with the cover on. Do this 5 times a day for the next 3 days (i.e. 15x altogether). Add more water as needed to ensure the abalone are submerged the entire time or else the exposed part will become dark.
- After the tenth time, soak 6 shiitake mushrooms in cold water for an hour. Snip off the stems and add the mushroom caps together with the mushroom soaking liquid to the pot.
- The circular bottom of the abalone is the hardest part so your abalone is done if that part has softened as much as the surrounding meat. When the abalone is done it will be bigger yet again as the gelatine from the stock will have bloated it further. Also, when the abalone is done, you will notice the core is not of a lighter colour when you cut it in half.
- After the abalone is nice and soft, remove the abalone and mushrooms and boil down the liquid until it thickens. It is normal to serve the abalone with some mini-Chinese cabbage or broccoli so add this to the sauce as you are boiling it down if you wish. You can also thicken the sauce by mixing in a bit of corn starch that is already dissolved in cold water.
- The size of dried abalone is measured in ‘heads’. This is the number of abalone in a catty (600g) and ranges from 6-30. The smaller the number, the bigger the abalone. The ones I used are about 18 head. The number of times you need to simmer depends on the size of your abalone. Smaller ones require less simmering and larger ones more.
- If you don’t have time to hang around the kitchen all day, you can just simmer 3x a day, but for 5 days. The result is the same.
- The best pot to simmer abalone in is one made of clay, as pictured. They spread and keep heat well. You can still use a metal pot if you don’t have one.
- The golden rule of rehydration is to use cold water. Hot water makes the rehydrated foodstuff tough and rubbery. Changing the water removes some of the salt and keeps the water fresh, so don’t skip water changes. Some people keep the soaking abalone in the fridge but I find this too troublesome. If the weather is hot, add an ice cube of two in each cycle to keep the temperature of the water down.
- Chicken feet is ideal for this recipe because of the gelatine it produces when boiled. They have very little fat but a lot of skin. Gelatine is the secret to the nice texture of rehydrated abalone. Pork tail also give off gelatine, but unlike chicken the taste of pork does not blend that well with seafood so you need to use pork that is not ‘porky’. An alternative would be to make the stock from a chicken carcass with a bit of gelatine powder.
- I have found hon dashi to be the easiest way to flavour the stock properly but a more traditional alternative would be to use dried scallops or conpoy.
- A common use for any left over abalone sauce is to mix it with egg noodles, like a pasta sauce.
- Don’t use fresh mushrooms as they have the wrong flavour and they would disintegrate with so much boiling anyway.
- Here are some reference pages to Shiitake Mushrooms, Chinese Wine and Hon Dashi.