Braised Abalone for Chinese New Year

During the winter months for the last two years I started noticing fresh frozen abalones for sale in New York City’s Chinatown. A few fishmongers display mounds of these large solidly frozen mollusks. I was curious where these abalones come from. Unfortunately most of the shopkeepers were not able to enlighten me. However one person suggested Australia, which is plausible since abalone farming has become very successful there. This success has made abalone a sustainable ingredient. So this year when I was planning our Chinese New Year family celebration I did not hesitate to include some of these beautiful abalones for the Hakka dish DaPenCai.

DaPenCai (大盆菜), literally translated as “big basin meal,” consists of many individual dishes presented in layers in one large platter. The individual dishes often include abalones, sea cucumbers, prawns, scallops, chicken, duck feet and other delicacies. Traditionally it is served among the Hakka families on the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year to mark the end of the holiday. DaPenCai is now served at anytime during the fifteen-day period of New Year festivities, and also throughout the rest of the year.

This year my family’s Chinese New Year dinner banquet celebrates Hakka (客家) and ChaoZhou (潮州) cuisines, so I’ve included DaPenCai as one of the courses. The Hakka people migrated to southern Chinese coastline after escaping political persecution in the north. They eventually settled around northern Guangdong and southern Fujian provinces right near the ChaoZhou area. Overtime their cooking traditions influenced each other and they now utilize many similar ingredients and techniques.

In my plan for the DaPenCai I included Braised Abalone (原汁燜鮑魚) as one of the items. This version I’m making is an uncomplicated braising of the mollusk in a soy sauce based liquid. I’m also using pork and chicken, as is traditional, to create the rich umami that flavors the abalone.

Abalone is available in the market live, fresh frozen, canned and dried. For many years the dried and canned varieties were the only ones available. Now with so many choices which one makes the best braised abalone? I used to consider the reconstituted dried abalone to be the best because of their deeper richer flavor. But I now believe fresh abalones, whether live or frozen, are the best choice. Their texture is tender and they produce a fresh delicate flavor.

I will publish the full banquet menu in the next post. But here is the recipe for Braised Abalone. Enjoy the recipe and Happy New Year!

  • Braised Abalone (原汁燜鮑魚)

    • Preparation time: 30 minutes
    • Slow cooking time: 3 hours 30 minutes
    • 1 1/2 lb. fresh abalone or 3/4 lb. dried abalone
    • 1/2 lb. lean pork
    • 1 lb. or 1/2 chicken
    • 1 inch length of ginger root
    • 4 scallion
    • 4 whole cilantro plant with roots if possible
    • 1 cup Shaoxing cooking wine
    • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 6 cups chicken stock
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • For frozen abalones be sure to completely thaw them in the refrigerator before cleaning the black film on the sides and bottom by scrubbing with a clean kitchen brush. Or if you have live fresh abalones you can learn how to clean them at About.com. If you’re using dried abalones then soak them in clean water for twenty-four hours at room temperature. Replace with fresh water every six hours or so. Canned abalones they can be used directly out of the can.
    • Line the bottom of a wok or large clay pot with a lattice bamboo mat specifically designed for braising delicate seafood. Arrange the abalones right on the mat then cover them with the scallion, ginger and cilantro. Place the pork and chicken on top of everything else. Finally pour the cooking wine, light soy sauce, sugar and chicken stock into the wok. Heat until the liquid starts to boil.
    • Turn down the heat and simmer covered over very low heat. Skim off any scum that forms on top of the liquid. Cook for about three hours. Be sure to check the liquid level making sure the abalones do not get burnt.
    • After three hours there should only be about two cups of liquid left. Turn the heat off and remove and discard all the sold ingredients except the abalones. Remove the abalones and set aside reserving the braising liquid after straining it through a fine sieve.
    • Reduce the braising liquid to about one cup by heating over moderate heat. Thicken the sauce with a slurry of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/3 cup water.
    • Return the abalones to the wok and simmer for another minute or so. Serve the abalones hot with the sauce over them.
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23 Comments

  1. Posted February 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Happy Chinese New Year! The food looks amazing! Cheers~

  2. Luis Mora
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    A few weeks ago my daugther ,surprise with a dozen of frozen abalones, I dont Know how to cook them , DO I have to pound them ,how long I have cook them . If you can help I will apreciate.

  3. Posted September 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I am envious of your abalone! Follow my recipe above and cook for about three to four hours. You don’t have to pound them. Just cook them.

    If you’d like to use them in a stir-fry then boil them in water with a small hunk of ginger for about three hours. Then cut them against the grain into 1/8 inch slices. Stir-fry with some bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms. Season with soy sauce oyster sauce, cooking wine and a bit of cornstarch.

    Enjoy!

  4. QUYEN DAO
    Posted January 1, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you very much for sharing this recipe as I have been looking for it for a while. I have a question that how is the texture of braised abalone i.e firm or tender? I asked so because I tried to simmer frozen abalone before over low heat for few hours but those abalone turned out to be firm, not as tender as I found in restaurant.

  5. Posted January 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    QuYen,

    You’re right about frozen abalones needing to be cooked for a long time. I’ve been known to cook them for five to six hours. One important tip is that they should be simmered covered with enough liquid to completely submerged at all time. Reduce the sauce at the end after removing the abalones. This will prevent them from getting dry.

    Live fresh abalone when cooked for just a few minutes can result in very tender texture as well. But I don’t think frozen abalone can be cooked this way successfully.

  6. luis mora
    Posted January 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Thnaks por all the information about frozen abalones ,I got them an a oriental store ,and they are product from my country CHILE.Thanks for including me in your e-mail list.

  7. Ms Yvonne Yu
    Posted February 5, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Very good receipe for the braised abalone. Pl put me in yr mailing list. ThANKS.

  8. Man
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Your recipe is great!
    This is my first time to cook abalone (Australa frozen one) and I’m going to use the high pressure cooker. So how long should it take and is it longer the time better? And how to test whether the abalone is tender enough or already too firm.
    Thanks

  9. Posted February 11, 2011 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Hi Man, I would reduce the cooking time by half to about 1 hour 30 minutes. Make sure you have enough liquid in the pot before you start cooking in the pressure cooker. You should also line the bottom of the pot with a layer of scallion or spring onions to prevent the abalone from browning too much at the bottom. The best test for doneness is to actually slice into the abalone. It is done if the knife slice through without resistance. Enjoy!

  10. Danny
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Your recipe is very tempting.
    I live in northern California and am very fortunate to be able to legally harvest wild abalone when in season. The average cleaned abalone I harvested usually weighs 1 to 2 lb. Do you think your receipe would produce the same result with a 2 lb abalone? How long shall I cook it until it becomes tender? (Note: since abalone season is over, I will be using one 2-pound frozen abalone). Any suggestion is much appreciated. Danny

    • Posted January 3, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      The abalones I used were about 5 oz. each. I suggest that you cut your 2 lb. abalone into quarters before braising. Then follow the recipe as is. By the way, fresh abalone is great simply steamed then topped with black bean sauce or ginger scallion soy sauce. Only steam for about 10 minutes for a 4 or 5 oz. sized fresh abalone. Any longer the meat will become tough. Then you’ll have to braise the mollusk until tender.

  11. Laura
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    May somebody help me ??.. I need to know where to purchase abalones in New York area …I know is a store in Flushing …but I need address ..please!!! Thanks !

  12. Laura RodIn
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi everybody !! I need to know where purchase abalones in NY area …somebody mentioned a store in flushing …I need directions please !!! Thank you !!

  13. Karen
    Posted January 14, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Hello, thanks for sharing your recipe with us and I find it very useful for me. I just bought 2 frozen Australian green lip abalone and am planning to prepare it this Chinese new year using your recipes. It about 200gms each. Aside from pressure cooker and wok, can I slow cook it in a slow cooker? And how long would it take to cook in a slow cooker? Your advise is much appreciated.
    Karen

    • Posted January 15, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Yes, you can absolutely use a slow cooker. It may take a little longer since the temperature of a slow cooker is usually just below simmering. I would extend the cooking time to about four hours. Make sure to check for water level. The abalones should be submerge in liquid for the entire cooking period. Happy New Year!

  14. Anthony
    Posted January 19, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Hi Kim
    I am from Western Australia and have access to wild abalone year round. I was in china last year and had the most tender abalone that was cooked in a heated bowl in the table in boiling water. The abalone were live and in the shell. From what I remember it was only about 5 minutes. Does this sound correct as we are so used to bashing them senseless before cooking. I really need to find this fast poached/ boiled method. It was simply include with other raw seafoods at the table and some sauces and other additives as to make a broth as the meal progressed. Hope you can help
    Thanks
    Anthony

    • Posted January 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Hi Anthony,

      Lucky you that you can get fresh wild abalone so readily! I’m jealous. Like all mollusk abalone can be steamed for just a very short period of time and produce very tender meat. But once it’s cooked a bit too long the only way to make it tender again is to cook until the tissue is broken down. You’ll need to do the same with frozen or dried abalone. So enjoy the fresh abalone with quick cooking. For best result use small abalone of about two to three inches in diameter. Larger ones will be too tough.

      Clean the fresh abalone thoroughly by detaching it from the shell, remove the gut and brush off the black film around it. Replace the meat on the shell and put some minced garlic and ginger on top. Steam for just about five to eight minutes. Remove from steamer then pour a sauce of rice wine, soy sauce, sugar and sizzling vegetable oil. Serve garnish with scallion and cilantro.

      Enjoy!

      Kian

      • Anthony
        Posted January 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Kian,

        I did exactly as you suggested and they were good.
        They were a little tough and we tried a range of times from 3-8 minutes. I then tried something different. I gave them a very slight bash with a rolling pin and them placed them in boiling chicken stock for 30secs. Along with the dipping sauce you suggested they were simply delicious. So I still think they need a little wack to tenderise them a little. My next attempt will be with a pressure cooker method for 1 and 1/4 hrs.

        many thanks

        Anthony

        • Posted January 31, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

          Anthony,

          I’m so pleased you were able to enjoy the fresh abalone of Australia Chinese style! I wish we have access to them.

          Kian

  15. Ed
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Hi Kian,

    Just wanted to let you know that your abalone cooking in a pressure cooker was the answer I was looking for. I just bought a Cuisinart pressure cooker today and trying to figure out how long to cook my 2 pounds northern California abalone and what temperature to cook it at. Me too an engineer -Mechanical.

    Thanks and Happy Chinese New Year
    Ed

  16. Hallie
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait to try this recipe as I am a lover of good traditional Chinese dishes. I love abalone and my husband dives for them in australa. We thinly slice them and cook them super quickly, in any desired sauce, the Renault is incredibly tender abs. We also freeze them. They freeze so well that you can thaw them and thinly slice and cook like they were fresh. We also slice them a little thicker, about 1/4 inch, batter and deep fry with a tartare sauce. They become very chewy if overlooked in the slightest, so wether your pan frying or deep frying cooking time is essential!

    I can’t wait to try cooking in a slow cooker or pressure cooker and get more adventurous with abs since we have lots here. I just hope they turn out as tender, but I love chinesse food and have some trust in a culture that has been cooking abs much longer than my culture. Yummy thanks for posting this recipe!!!

    • Posted August 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      I am jealous of the fact that you’re near the source of fresh abalone. Here in New York City I can only obtain frozen or dried abalone. Abalone should either be cooked briefly or over a long period of time. Anything in between would result in very tough meat. This recipe calls for braising for a long time. But the Chinese also cook fresh abalone by steaming or grilling it for a very short time. The meat can be incredibly tender and full of flavor.

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