Home > The Food of Japan > Traveling and seeking Japanese food [Vol.4]


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The Food of Japan Culinary Delights for the Body and Soul

Traveling and seeking Japanese food

Food journalist, Christopher K. Loew's report on Japanese food from his participation in a foreign media tour in Japan.

Hong Kong chef visits Aomori scallop port

A Hong Kong Chinese-language cooking show visited Aomori Prefecture in October, by invitation of MAFF, and will feature scallops along with other local specialties like apples.

Chef Wing Sun Ko hosts “Those were the tastes,” on i-Cable Entertainment Ltd with female co-host Flora Mable Cho. The show airs on Hong Kong cable channel 12 on Saturdays at 10:30 PM.

Hiranai harbor

The scene at Hiranai harbor at 7 AM resembled a busy taxi stand, as vessels lined up for off-loading.

The show visited Hiranai harbor where vessels were arriving one after another for offloading. Hiranai is the top port for cultivated scallops with average landings of about 30 MT per day. September is the peak of flavor for scallops in this area. Glycogen, which imparts sweetness, increases throughout the summer, but begins to decline with colder weather.

Cargo nets of cultivated scallops were lifted from the vessels by crane and dumped to the hopper of a conveyor by which they were fed into trucks. These whisked them away, still alive, to the nearby processing plant.

The scallops are hauled up from lines suspended in the bay. No dredging is required.

The scallops are hauled up from lines suspended in the bay. No dredging is required.

The crew next filmed in the plant where workers were removing the gut sack and roe, scanning for shell fragments and freezing the scallops. The factory maintains a high level of sanitation, including, special garments, a disinfectant bootwash, air curtains and dust barriers.

Most Chinese, like Americans, prefer to eat only the main muscle portion (adductor muscle) that opens and closes the shell. Japanese, on the other hand, often eat the whole scallop, apart from the digestive gland, grilled on the halfshell.

Chef Wing Sun Ko and co-host Flora Mable Cho try picking the gut sack from scallops.

Chef Wing Sun Ko and co-host Flora Mable Cho try picking the gut sack from scallops.

Scallops are popular in Hong Kong, but are not produced there. Small bay scallops (Argopectens irradians) come from the northern Chinese cities of Dalian and Qingdao. These are usually preserved by drying, which concentrates the flavor. They are rehydrated by soaking in warm water before cooking.

Ko said the larger Japanese scallops are used for upscale restaurants, where they make an impressive plate presentation. Japan produces the larger “hotate” sea scallop (Patinopecten yessoensis). Sizes in count per pound from Japan are 10/20’s (mainly in the 18/23 range). The large size of Japanese scallops is partly due to the species cultivated, and partly because they are allowed to grow longer to meet Japanese market preference.

Hotate Hiroba

Dried scallops on sale at the Hotate Hiroba.

Finally, Chef Ko and Cho cooked two scallop dishes at the nearby Hotate Hiroba (Scallop Square) souvenir shop. Their first dish was a stir-fry with scallop, garlic, bell pepper, soy sauce, XO sauce and Japanese sake; the second was cabbage and carrot with scallop, steamed in sake.

In Japan, scallops are often grilled on the halfshell with soy sauce. For frozen meats, the “string” that runs along the edge of the shell, the gut sack, and the roe are removed. The US and Hong Kong import only the adductor muscle, but for the EU, where France is the leading consumer, the gonads roe are sometimes included, according to Kazuto Toyoshima, head of the Hiranai City Fishery Cooperative. As a scallop byproduct, the “string” is dried into a beer snack similar to the dried squid that is a standard Japanese snack with beer. They can be flavored with chili pepper, seaweed or cheese.

The Hotate Hiroba was transformed into a cooking show studio.

The Hotate Hiroba was transformed into a cooking show studio.

Chris Loew
Chris Loew
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Chris Loew is an editor for SeafoodSource.com and Global Investing, a stock investing newsletter. Based in Osaka, Japan, he was born and raised in the USA, and has worked in a Japanese meat importing company, and as an export director for Seattle food companies.

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